Thursday 17 April 2008

Department objects to Clarence plan

THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment has objected to the €150 million plans by U2 and their manager Paul McGuinness for a "world class" hotel featuring an elliptical flying saucer-like structure, based around the Clarence Hotel and a number of adjacent listed buildings.

The objection, which also criticises Dublin City Council for its interpretation of heritage preservation guidance, was lodged last Friday and follows a request from An Bord Pleanála for its views.

It also follows criticism of the hotel plan from Failte Ireland which last month told the planning appeals board that it was important the city's "historic fabric be protected" and that the development "may set an unwelcome precedent for development in the Georgian heart of the city.

Dublin City Council approved permission for the 148-bedroom and 28-suite hotel last November, noting that it would involve retaining only the façades of a number of listed buildings along Wellington Quay, in the council's own Liffey Quays Conservation Area.

Taking issue with Dublin City planners, the department's submission says it disagrees with the council's view that the roofline and chimneys of the existing hotel "do not play an important part in the architectural composition of the typical Georgian terraced house". The department asserts that the chimneys and roofscapes were "important elements in defining a building with three dimensions".

The department's submission also expresses criticism of the council's senior planner whom it said reported in January that architectural heritage protection guidelines are "negative about, but open to, façade retention".

The department said it believed "negative" did not reflect the entirety of its opposition to façade retention in the light of the 1999 and 2000 Planning and Development Acts.

An assertion in the original environmental impact statement that "interference" with the original Austrian oak panelling in the Clarence Hotel could be done with planning permission was also contested by the department.

It said the statement did not appear to reflect the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 in regard to the preservation on interiors of listed buildings.

The department concluded that the "exceptional circumstances that might warrant the grant of planning permission for the substantive demolition of protected structures have not been demonstrated in this application".

The strong response is in contrast to the façade retention permitted with the development of the Westin Hotel on Westmoreland Street. The difference on this occasion appears to be the implementation of conservation measures in the Planning and Development Act 2000 which emphasise the retention of whole buildings as opposed to their façades.

The Irish Times

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