Tuesday, 20 April 2010

RTE gets green light for €350m Montrose overhaul

RTE has been given the green light to redevelop its Dublin 4 campus and build a €350m state-of-the-art complex designed for the digital and high-definition age.

Dublin City Council has granted planning permission for building works on the 31-acre Montrose site, which will result in the demolition of the television building and radio centre.

The broadcaster plans to redevelop the campus over a 10- to 15-year period, removing most of the 1960s and 1970s buildings and replacing them with a new 46,500 sq m complex.

The so-called 'Project 2025' has been on the drawing board since 2002 and will be carried out over five phases, assuming An Bord Pleanala does not overturn the decision.

The development is needed because RTE must invest in new digital broadcast production and transmission facilities, but it says it cannot house the new technologies in the existing buildings because they are unsuitable.

Interested parties now have four weeks to raise any objections with An Bord Pleanala, which can then review the planning permission.

The Ailesbury Road Residents' Association is among the objectors that could decide to send the decision to the planning appeals board.

Concerns have been raised about the impact the development would have on the privacy and amenity of local residents.

Yesterday's planning permission includes a number of conditions that address some of those concerns, such as an instruction to lower the height of a new wall on the Stillorgan dual carriageway.

Construction traffic has also been banned from entering the work site through the plush Ailesbury Road and Ailesbury Close, and must instead use the N11.

RTE also has to meet a number of architectural conditions, and work on the site must finish at 6pm on weekdays and 2pm on Saturdays, with no work on Sundays or public holidays, barring "exceptional circumstances".

If approved, work will first begin on new high-definition digital TV and radio studios, including a new studio for the 'The Late Late Show' which will be able to hold 800 people-- twice the capacity of the existing facility.

"Some of those studios are creaking already, but the work mightn't begin until this time next year, depending on the planning process," one RTE source said.

The project will be financed through cash reserves and bank loans, and the cash-strapped national broadcaster has insisted licence-fee income will not be used.


The full plans for the Montrose redevelopment include an auditorium for RTE's orchestras and local groups, as well as new production areas, rehearsal areas, performance spaces and staff offices.

RTE is also considering letting some of its new space on the commercial market, though it has ruled out selling any of the development.

Buildings will rise to a maximum of six storeys on the Stillorgan dual carriageway side of the site, where a new entrance is also planned.

When the construction site is in full flow, it is expected that it will employ around 670 workers.

"RTE welcomes the decision as an important step in its plans to ensure Irish licence fee payers continue to receive the best quality TV, radio and online services over the next 20-30 years," RTE's spokesman said yesterday.

Paul Melia and Laura Noonan

Irish Independent


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