Wednesday 29 July 2009

Council objects to Tara Street office 'slab' above station

DUBLIN CITY Council is opposing plans by Iarnród Éireann for a €100 million redevelopment of Tara Street station in Dublin, including the construction of a 15-storey office block on the site.

The two State bodies are also at loggerheads over the payment of development contributions and a levy to fund the Metro North in the event of planning permission being granted.

An Bord Pleanála yesterday began an oral hearing into Iarnród Éireann’s plans to redevelop the Dart and mainline station, the second-busiest in the country.

The semi-State aims to fund the new station through the development of the office block by seeking development partners if it obtains planning permission.

The development includes a glazed three-storey concourse and 10 storeys of office accommodation employing a “grain of rice” or “ship-shape” motif. Iarnród Éireann says the design by Canadian architects Adamson Associates will provide a “dramatic arrival point” for travellers to Dublin.

“The concourse will be a place of light, bustle and activity, an interchange point which looks towards the historic core of Dublin and the Liffey quays to the west, yet which is itself visible in all of its activities from the adjacent streets and from the wider city,” according to Iarnród Éireann.

However, the council, in its observation to the board, has likened the proposed tower to “a large slab form” sitting poorly in the skyline. While not opposed to development on the site, it says the current proposal is not capable of being amended and should be rejected. The proposed development will reach 60.8 metres into the Dublin skyline, slightly higher than Liberty Hall and almost twice the height of the Custom House. Iarnród Éireann told the hearing, chaired by inspector Karla McBride, that the loss of any floors from the office tower would significantly reduce its commercial viability.

A 10-year planning permission is being sought as construction is likely to take longer than the normal five years allowed.

The Department of the Environment has also expressed concern about the proposed development and has called for the provision of a nesting platform for peregrine falcons as part of any planning permission.

The development envisages the demolition of Tara House and other buildings but Kennedy’s pub, a four-storey protected structure on George’s Quay, will survive.

Iarnród Éireann called on the board not to impose levies on the development to fund Metro North and to reduce the normal development contributions due to Dublin City Council as part of planning permission.

Tim Richards, a surveyor with CIÉ, said the imposition of a levy to fund Metro North, as sought by the Railway Procurement Agency and the council, was inappropriate because it was not a pure office development. The imposition of a levy, estimated at almost €400,000, would place an “undue burden” on the development.

Jennifer Noctor of the Railway Procurement Agency said the levy should be imposed as the development was within the prescribed area near the new Metro line, which would benefit the occupants of the commercial and retail units.

Mr Richards also argued that development contributions due to the council should not be imposed in relation to the transport components of the plan.

Tom Devoy of Iarnród Éireann said the Tara Street station was heavily congested at peak times and would not be able to cope with expected increases in passenger numbers in the future. The new station has been designed to cater for 14,500 passengers an hour, compared to the current morning peak of 6,000 passengers. Mr Devoy said the new design would make the station a far safer environment for passengers as well as providing better shelter for passengers on platforms.

However, Iarnród Éireann does not intend to provide any toilets or bicycle parking in the station because of the “confined” nature of the site. Ms McBride said it wasn’t logical to expect cyclists to park their bikes at other stations if travelling from Tara Street.

Mr Devoy said Tara Street was a vital piece of strategic rail infrastructure for Dublin and its redevelopment was vital to “future-proof” the station to meet future passenger needs. “A ‘do-nothing’ scenario is untenable,” he said.

The application is similar to a previous one granted planning permission in 2001 but this was abandoned three years later because it would involve the temporary closure of the station.

The latest application, which is being assessed by An Bord Pleanála under new fast-track planning procedures, permits the station to remain operating during works.

Irish Times

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