Thursday 24 July 2008

D4 high-rises profit-driven, says Desmond

BUSINESSMAN DERMOT Desmond has described a proposed high-rise development on the site of the former veterinary college in Ballsbridge as "an incongruous spike" in a sea of Victorian architecture and said the entire justification for such high-rise buildings seemed to be "the maximisation of profit".

Mr Desmond, who lives on Ailesbury Road, Ballsbridge, made the comments in a submission to An Bord Pleanála's oral hearing on the development, which opened at the RDS yesterday.

The financier was not present at the hearing but his submission was circulated to all parties.

In February, Dublin City Council granted planning permission to Kintene Ltd for the redevelopment of the site, after it had received almost 90 objections.

Plans for Number 1 Ballsbridge include a 15-storey tower, apartments, office blocks, shops and cultural centres. Developer Ray Grehan of Glenkerrin Homes paid more than €171 million for the 0.825 hectare site three years ago.

It is beside the Jurys/Berkeley Court site which is owned by developer Seán Dunne. He is also planning a high-rise development.

In his submission, Mr Desmond said it was "surprising and of concern" that the planning authority did not seek an Environmental Impact Assessment before planning permission was granted.

He said the development was "of such size and scale as to be entirely inappropriate and insensitive and contrary to the visual and recreational amenities of the area". Mr Desmond said there had been some insensitive and inappropriate developments permitted in the past but this was no justification for "further insensitive and inappropriate developments.

"I have a real concern that the developer rather than the planning authority ... is dictating the planning process and the real motivation appears to be the maximising of site value rather than proper planning and sustainable development."

At yesterday's hearing, local residents objected to the density and height of the plan. Speakers also claimed that the plan was inextricably linked with Mr Dunne's plans for the adjacent site.

Barrister Colm Mac Eochaidh asked planning inspector Tom Rabbette to refer the case to the High Court because he believed the plan was a material contravention of the Dublin City development plan. He also criticised the absence of key city council planner Kieran Rose from the hearing. Mr MacEochaidh was representing 11 residents' associations as well as a number of individuals.

He was speaking after town planner Fergal McCabe said the proposed 20,000 sq m of office space was a material contravention of the development plan because the area was zoned for residential use.

Mr McCabe said the 15-storey tower would be a "very significant marker" in the city yet there seemed to be no corresponding public gain from it.

An Taisce's Ian Lumley said he had no idea why the developers were claiming that the area needed such a landmark building. "There is no indication whatsoever that this site would benefit in any way from a landmark building ... in fact the opposite would be the case," he said.

Planning consultant Colin McGill pointed to other high-rise buildings in the area such as Hume House but Mr Lumley said many of these tall buildings has utterly failed to incorporate into their setting.

Fine Gael Cllr Paddy McCartan and Lucinda Creighton TD said the planners had ignored their own guidelines by granting permission. The hearing is expected to continue for several days.

The Irish Times

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