Thursday 17 September 2009

Irish Planning Institute visits the Aviva Stadium

Along with other members of the Dublin Branch of the Irish Planning Institute, yesterday I visited the fast-progressing Aviva Stadium project at Lansdowne Road.

The project team provided a discussion of all of the planning issues involved in the scheme to date and followed this with a tour of the construction site.

The complexity of the planning issues suggests the project was lucky to get off the ground. At appeal stage, the An Bord Pleanála Inspector recommended a refusal of planning permission mainly on the basis that there was a better site in the city (the now controversial glassworks site). Thankfully, the Board overruled the recommendation and, like Dublin City Council at local level, it granted planning permission.

Since the granting of permission, the project has progressed quickly, but not without its difficulties. For example, the project team has had to work with Iarnród Éireann to complete demolition and re-building works with respect to the DART and mainline train line and there have been five follow-up applications – each required to address the complexity of this scheme. The last application is for stadium signage.

Both the planning process undertaken and the tour illustrate just how physically tight the site is. This is not a Wembley Stadium with large swathes of open space surrounding it, but a local stadium tied into the urban grain. A stadium set within a community. This community appears to have been treated well by the project team, but when standing high in the new stands and looking down on adjoining houses, it is easy to understand why the proposed stadium upgrade raised local concerns.

New entrances and accesses to the stadium are being provided through the areas surrounding the stadium. These will address access and exit issues which arose with the old Lansdowne Road stadium. In terms of making a safe exit, it will be possible, in an emergency, to empty the stadium in 16 minutes.

Work completed to date is impressive with the shape and design of the stadium now clear and sufficient finishing materials are in place to lend an impression of what the final article will look like. Standing in a Corporate Box you (almost) wish you worked for a bank. Work on the stadium roof steel is virtually complete and soon the spectacular roof frame will support itself.

From my experience of the tour, it is clear that players, press and spectators will be treated to an excellent facility with everything a modern stadium should have.

The project is on schedule and I look forward to trying to get tickets for the first game held in the Aviva Stadium.

Thanks to the Aviva Stadium project team for the talk and tour and to the Dublin Branch for organising this fieldtrip.

Brendan Buck

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