Monday 21 July 2008

Council reviews unpopular high-rise plans

DUBLIN CITY Council's management is reviewing its controversial high-rise strategy following an overwhelmingly negative response from the public, as well as signals from An Bord Pleanála and the Department of the Environment.

Michael Stubbs, assistant city manager in charge of the council's planning department, admitted that last month's public meetings in five city areas to discuss the draft policy, Maximising the City's Potential: A Strategy for Intensification and Height, "didn't go well".

"There is a problem with this document in certain parts of the city," he said.

"Based on what we've heard, we are going to have to evaluate what was said and think about how to bring the strategy forward. There are definitely things going to be changed."

The main criticism related to exceptions in the document that would permit "random eruptions" of high-rise buildings outside previously designated areas - such as the Docklands, Heuston Station and other transport nodes such as Connolly and Tara Street stations.

Michael Smith, former chairman of An Taisce, branded the draft strategy as "the most damaging document ever produced by Dublin City Council", saying it "would have comprehensively threatened Dublin's characteristic human scale".

Mr Stubbs said it was clear that the height issue was "totally emotive", obscuring what the planners were trying to achieve in terms of raising residential densities in the city, particularly in areas that are well-served by good-quality public transport.

However, he accepted that people had genuine concerns about a strategy for the city that many saw as a blueprint to pepper it with high-rise buildings, even in low-rise suburban areas. "We're going to have to be very careful about that," he said.

Mr Stubbs pointed out that a local area plan (LAP) for Phibsboro, drafted by Paul Keogh Architects, had recently gone through the city council with an option to locate a tall building on the site of the old shopping centre, where there is already a tower.

"If the concept of LAPs is the way to go, we'll do that," he said. "That would be getting away from the idea of random high-rise. And for smaller sites, we would do design briefs" - with these briefs going out for public consultation before being adopted.

Mr Stubbs said members of the council's planning and economic development committee would be taken on a tour of Copenhagen and Malmö next month to see examples of higher density residential development - mostly not involving high-rise.

The planning department will be reporting back to the committee in September on the outcome of public consultations on the council's draft strategy, with amendments to take account of people's views.

Although An Bord Pleanála last week upheld the planners' decision to approve the redevelopment of the Clarence Hotel, it has been adopting a critical stance on high-rise schemes, while the Department of the Environment has intervened in Ballsbridge.

The Irish Times

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