Thursday 17 April 2008

Clarence scheme 'breaks guidelines'

The proposed Clarence Hotel project on Dublin's quays could go against both local planning guidelines and Government legislation, a Bord Pleanála hearing has heard.

Under a radical redevelopment plan, the landmark hotel owned by rock band U2, would be substantially demolished and rebuilt as a 34-metre high structure with views across the capital city from Wellington Quay.

Existing legislation allows for the demolition of protected structures in exceptional circumstances.

"The exceptional and particular circumstances in this case relate to the need to retain or enhance the special interest value of the structures (i.e. the hotel use), the excellence of the proposed development in terms of architecture and uses, the contribution to the city on a strategic level, including the quays, and at a local level in terms of Temple Bar," Kieran Rose, senior planner with Dublin City Council told the hearing.

However, in its own oral submission to the hearing, the Department of the Environment, Local Government and Heritage said it did not believe that the scheme was of such architectural merit as to meet the exceptional circumstances stipulation laid down by the legislation.

Dublin City Council had already granted planning permission for the project, which will see the existing structures Dollard House at 2-5 Wellington Quay; the Clarence Hotel at 6-8 Wellington Quay and 9-12 Wellington Quay demolished, the facades retained, and a new hotel constructed behind it.

The hotel's owners, including U2's Bono and the Edge, said the Clarence has suffered financial difficulty in recent years, and redevelopment was necessary to sustain it.

The proposed five-star hotel will include a sky room and a viewing terrace at the top level of the hotel, a 'sky catcher' central atrium and three basement floors.

The development is expected to rejuvenate the Essex Street end of Temple Bar, despite objections from conservationist Michael Smith that the area was already lively enough.

However, opponents also fear the new development, which propose demolishing a significant proportion of protected buildings on Wellington Quay and retaining the facades, could set a precedent for protected buildings in other areas of the city.

The proposed new hotel was praised by Fáilte Ireland, which welcomed the redevelopment and innovative design, which it said would attract ¿well educated and affluent¿ visitors to Dublin¿s city centre. However, the body expressed concern that the demolition of the protected buildings, retaining only the facades, would set a precedent for similar developments.

Speaking for Fáilte Ireland, Paddy Matthews refused to be drawn on whether the organisation was seeking to overturn planning permission, saying that it remained a matter for An Bord Pleanála.

Yesterday, U2 guitarist The Edge told the hearing the design by British architect Norman Foster was "an incredible coup for Dublin city".

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