Thursday 12 November 2009

Councillors reject Dunne's new plan for Ballsbridge site

DUBLIN CITY councillors have again rejected developer Seán Dunne’s plans to redevelop the site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels in Ballsbridge, which he bought for €450 million four years ago.

Councillors unanimously recommended that city planners refuse Mr Dunne’s application even though he had significantly scaled back his original plans for the site after they were judged a “gross overdevelopment” by An Bord Pleanála earlier this year.

At the same meeting last night councillors gave cross-party support to RTÉ’s plans for the complete redevelopment of their Montrose studios.

An Bord Pleanála last January refused Mr Dunne’s application for a retail and office development, including a 37-storey tower on the site of what is now D4 Hotels. It said the development contravened the Dublin City Development Plan in including “excessive” retail development and office use which was “neither permitted nor open for consideration” on the site.

Mr Dunne had sought more than 27,000sq m of retail space, 42,000sq m of offices, including an embassy block, and 536 apartments. The retail and office element did not comply with the residential zoning of the site, the planning board said.

Mr Dunne’s new application, submitted to the council last month, is much more modest, particularly in terms of its height. The tallest buildings proposed are two 15-storey towers and most of the other blocks are nine to 10 storeys. Mr Dunne has eliminated the office block and the embassy building, both of which An Bord Pleanála found to be in contravention of the development plan.

The retail element has been cut to about one-fifth of what was originally proposed. The new scheme is now largely residential, with 568 apartments and a 135-bed hotel.

However, councillors were not willing to put their weight behind the revised development with several speculating Mr Dunne had submitted the application in order to enhance the value the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) would put on the land.

“This strikes me as the last yelp of the Celtic Tiger as it struggles into Namaland,” Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said.

The council, like several other local authorities, was being inundated with applications that “will never come to fruition but are solely so the developer can have their lands ‘appropriately’ valued by Nama,” Mr Lacey said.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said the new scheme had no architectural merit. “Every citizen in Dublin should be deeply concerned by this proposal for enormous blocks that would be better off in the former Soviet Russia.”

The councillors’ recommendation for rejection does not automatically mean a development will not be granted planning permission, but their views must be taken into account by the city planners.

The councillors last month recommended planners reject Mr Dunne’s proposal for a new office development at the neighbouring AIB Bankcentre.

Plans by RTÉ to redevelop its Dublin 4 campus were far more favourably received. The broadcaster is seeking to demolish and rebuild the 1960s and 1970s broadcasting facilities on approximately half of the 16-acre site. Two protected structures, Montrose House and Mount Errol House, are not included on the selected site.

Councillors raised concerns about the proposed heights of up to 36 metres, but recommended the planners grant permission with conditions to deal with height and the impact of the development on surrounding houses.

Separately RTÉ is seeking to change the zoning to allow for “mixed uses”. This would allow a greater range of uses on the portion of the site which will not be taken up by the new facilities.

Irish Times

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