Monday 29 September 2008

Embassy in Dunne's high-rise application is 'fraud'

THE INCLUSION of an embassy block in the planning application for Seán Dunne's high-rise scheme for Ballsbridge was a "fraud" and a "ruse" to add office space to the development, a Bord Pleanála hearing on the project was told yesterday.

Offices are not allowed under the zoning of the site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels. However, embassy use is allowed.

Michael O'Donnell, counsel for businessman Dermot Desmond, yesterday told Ulrik Raysse, the Danish architect behind the scheme, it was not believable that the 15-storey building would be used by embassies of several different countries.

"The embassy building is a ruse and a fraud, Mr Raysse . . . You who have connived in this have acted inappropriately."

Under cross-examination, Mr Raysse said the practical difficulties of housing different embassies on one premises could be solved. Mr O'Donnell asked if he was suggesting that the Palestinian embassy could be housed above the Israeli embassy.

"I think that would be a very good idea," Mr Raysse replied.

Mr Raysee had acted cynically in his whole design of the development, Mr O'Donnell said.

Mr Raysse last week told the hearing that he had originally designed a 32-storey, 119m (390ft) tower for the site, instead of the 37-storey tower, because Dublin Spire architect Ian Ritchie was on the judging panel for the Ballsbridge scheme and Mr Raysee thought Mr Ritchie would not choose a building taller than the 120m (393ft) Spire.

Mr O'Donnell said Mr Raysse was more motivated by placating judges than design principles.

"The motivation guiding you in what was the most cynical of exercises was merely to placate one of the adjudicators," Mr O'Donnell said.

Mr Raysse said he merely had regard for the Spire as a possible idea for heights in Dublin.

Mr O'Donnell asked the architect if he felt it was important that statutory development policies should be "strictly adhered to" when designing a development.

"If there is a better idea that is the stronger one, that should be looked at as stronger than the development plan," Mr Raysse replied.

Mr Raysse was "very presumptuous" to think his views were more important than a democratically determined development plan, Mr O'Donnell said.

The Department of the Environment yesterday told the hearing that protected structures on Lansdowne Road would be put at risk if nine or 11-storey buildings were sited at the edge of Mr Dunne's development.

Mr Dunne applied to Dublin City Council to build 11-storey buildings facing Lansdowne Road. He was granted permission for nine storeys but is asking An Bord Pleanála to restore their full height.

Mark Ritchie, a conservation architect with the department, said the residents on Lansdowne Road would be in "near permanent shadow".

"It would be impossible that 11-storey buildings would not have a significant impact on the quality of life of people in these protected structures," Mr Ritchie said.

The Irish Times

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