Wednesday 21 July 2010

Chapel at Dublin hospital to be demolished

A NINETEENTH-century chapel is due to be demolished following a decision by An Bord Pleanála to allow construction on the St James’s Hospital campus in Dublin.

The chapel, built in the 1890s, will be demolished to allow for the development of an eight-storey, 196-bed private hospital, on a 1.148 hectare site, located on the existing campus.

The chapel is thought to be connected with the South Dublin Union workhouses on the southside of Dublin’s inner city, which was one of the main sites of the 1916 Easter Rising.

In January, Synchrony Properties was granted permission by Dublin City Council to develop the facility, which will employ 400 people during its construction and have about 545 full-time staff when completed.

Local residents and a number of local politicians opposed the council’s decision to approve the plans and made an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, which upheld the original decision in favour of development.

In its ruling, the board stated that the development of a “high quality hospital” justified the proposed demolition of the chapel because it was not listed under the Record of Protected Structures (RPS). However, the ruling stipulates that the developers must pay an insurance bond of €1 million to ensure the demolition process coincides with the commencement of work on the new development.

Labour TD Mary Upton was one of the appellants along with her party colleague councillor John Gallagher. Ms Upton said she was “absolutely horrified” that the council halted their decision to list the chapel as a protected structure.

Mr Gallagher said the council’s south-central area committee had agreed in May 2008 to begin the process for listing the chapel RPS. The proposal to list the chapel as a protected structure was “unanimously agreed upon” and should then have gone before a full city council meeting, where it would “almost certainly have been passed”, added Mr Gallagher.

Council officials have a role in the preparation of reports which recommend whether a building is included on the record, but the addition or deletion of a structure on the RPS is a reserved function of city councillors.

Dublin City Council documents show senior officials halted the proposal to make the chapel a protected structure, after they were made aware of the significance of its location and its obstruction to development on the campus.

The council reversed its decision to add the chapel to the RPS less than one month after the chief executive of St James’s Hospital protested against the proposal.

In March 2008, a conservation officer working for the council said the chapel held significant historical, architectural and social value, which merited its inclusion on the record. However, in August of that year, the same conservation officer reversed the decision “in light of the arguments put forward” by the hospital official, which disputed the chapel’s historical significance.

In a letter, the chief executive officer of the hospital said the protection of the chapel would obstruct development on the site, which would prevent the implementation of Government and HSE strategy to deliver healthcare facilities.

A statement from the city council said the process of listing the chapel as a protected site was halted because it was made aware of a proposed development on the hospital campus.

The new development is planned as one of a number of co-located private hospitals intended to be built in the grounds of existing public hospitals under a Government plan announced in 2005. None of the five hospitals has yet been built.

Irish Times

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