An ambitious plan to redevelop the Clarence Hotel on Dublin’s Wellington Quay has been approved by An Bord Pleanála, despite a strong recommendation from a planning inspector that it be rejected.
The scheme, devised by architect Norman Foster, involves demolishing the hotel and adjoining buildings on the quay, retaining their façades and constructing a much larger hotel arranged around a dramatic atrium and topped by a flying saucer-style roof.
In his report on appeals against the development from bodies such as An Taisce, inspector Kevin Moore said the proposed development would be "seriously injurious to the visual amenities of the area, would conflict with the policies of the current Dublin City Development Plan, and would, thereby, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".
Mr Moore also said the plan would result in a "visually uncompromising impact on Wellington Quay" and that it would adversely affect the setting of the River Liffey, its bridges and streetscape and a significant adverse affect on important views and vistas along the quays.
He said the scale of new façade on Essex Street East would imbalance the visual coherence of this street, adversely affecting the character of Temple Bar.
The new rooftop element, when viewed from Fleet Street and along the Temple Bar approach from the east, would constitute a "distinctive and discordant structure, dominating views along the streets and eroding the intimate human scale of the historic streetscape", Mr Moore said.
The inspector also said that due to the "significant cultural heritage value of the site, the provisions of the plan as they relate to heritage must weigh heavily in the assessment of this proposal".
"The proposed development performs very poorly in terms of respect for architectural heritage."
The design of the proposed hotel development, the inspector wrote, is "conceptually brilliant but contextually illiterate".
In its submission on the plan, An Taisce said the proposal was inappropriate for protected structures and the historic city centre and that it did not comply with the Department of the Environment's architectural heritage protection guidelines.
The Department of the Environment had also objected to the scheme, saying it could set a precedent for demolishing protected buildings in other areas of the city.
While existing legislation allows for the demolition of protected structures in exceptional circumstances, the Department argued that the scheme was not of such architectural merit as to meet the exceptional circumstances stipulation laid down by the legislation.
The owners of the hotel, who include U2's Bono and the Edge, welcomed the board's decision in a statement today.
“We are delighted that An Bord Pleanala has given us the green light for Norman Foster's design for The Clarence. …We believe it's great news for Dublin and for Temple Bar in particular, where we've been working for over 20 years and where a hotel has been trading on The Clarence site for 177 years," it said.