An Bord Pleanála has refused planning permission for two high-rise schemes in Dublin's Digital Hub in the Liberties, saying that they would "seriously injure the residential amenities of the area". Manor Park Homes and P. Elliott and Co had both acquired sites previously owned by the State on either side of Thomas Street. The deals, involving the transfer of more than five acres of land in November 2005, netted €118 million for the Government. But Manor Park was refused permission by Dublin City Council for a "mini-Manhattan" scheme on the south side of Thomas Street. It would have included a cluster of high-rise buildings of up to 53 storeys, flanked by lower buildings on the street frontage.
Upholding the council's decision, An Bord Pleanála noted that the 2.5-acre site was "located in the historic core of Dublin city and fronts on to . . . one of the city's oldest streets", which is also designated a conservation area in the current Dublin City Development Plan. The board also referred to the council's policy of protecting the skyline of the inner city, in line with the criteria regarding building heights set out in the 2000 study by London-based urban designers DEGW, which put forward a strategy for building heights in the city. In its ruling, the board said that the proposed development would contravene these policies because of the "excessive height of the proposed buildings generally . . . ranging from 11 storeys on Thomas Street to 53 storeys at the southern end of the site".It also cited the "unsatisfactory nature and form of development based on a podium with full site coverage", saying that this would be "significantly out of character with the area". The board considered that the proposed development "would seriously injure the residential amenities of the area and/or development potential of property in the vicinity by reason of overlooking, overshadowing and visual intrusion". Dealing with the P. Elliott scheme for a three-acre site on the north side of Thomas Street, which involved another high-rise cluster up to 16 storeys, An Bord Pleanála gave similar reasons for refusing permission - including "excessive" scale and height.Notwithstanding the city council's objective to support the Digital Hub, it considered that the development "would not represent an appropriate redevelopment of this area, or a form of development that is sufficiently sympathetic to its historic character". It said that the proposed 16-storey tower would seriously detract from the setting of the 18th century Guinness windmill, which is a protected structure, while the height of a second block would seriously detract from a protected period house at 164 Thomas Street. The board also said that the "excessive reliance" on roof gardens (as opposed to internal courtyards) for private open space by future residents was "not acceptable in residential amenity terms, having regard to the difficulty of access and the lack of security of such spaces".
2007 The Irish Times