Friday 13 August 2010

Appeals against Jurys site expected

APPEALS ARE expected to be made to An Bord Pleanála against Dublin City Council’s decision to approve developer Seán Dunne’s revised plans for the Jurys/Berkeley Court hotels site in Ballsbridge.

Billionaire financier Dermot Desmond along with An Taisce, the Dublin South East branch of the Green Party, Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton, the Lansdowne and District Residents Association and the Pembroke Road Association were among those who objected to the scheme.

Mr Desmond described the design as “bland, uninteresting, typical of many nondescript and uninteresting buildings that lie unused and unlikely to be used throughout the city of Dublin in the foreseeable future” and objected to its “rigid approach of squares and rectangles”.

Ms Creighton, in her letter to the planners, said it was “not realistic” of the developer to be proposing 568 apartments on a 2.8-hectare (nearly seven-acre) site “to recoup some of the losses he has incurred on the purchase of this site”, which he bought for €379 million in 2006.

She also said “tower blocks” of up to 15 storeys “would dominate the streetscapes” of Ballsbridge. However, she welcomed the fact that taller buildings would be set back from the street and that some of the existing trees (mainly evergreen oaks) would be retained.

Tom Phillips, planning consultant for Mr Dunne’s company, Mountbrook Homes, said the latest scheme – designed by OMP Architects – “ticked all the boxes” of the current Dublin City Development Plan in terms of apartment sizes, open space provision and other standards.

He explained that the design team had used An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse permission for the earlier scheme on the grounds of “gross overdevelopment” as a starting point to recast it, so that what was proposed would be in full compliance with the city plan.

Mr Phillips said the board, in its decision to reject plans that included a 37-storey tower, had indicated that it “wanted x, y and z, so we did x, y and z”. The design team had also addressed every issue raised by the council’s planners in their detailed request for further information.

“We’re delighted with the decision,” he said. “It’s a very clean permission with only one material change – an apartment at ground-floor level is to be converted to a retail unit.”

The overall number of apartments had already been reduced from 568 to 535, at the planners’ request.

Mr Phillips said the size of the apartments being proposed for the Jurys/Berkeley Court sites were “bigger than the average Irish house”, with three-beds averaging 192sq m and four-beds 224sq m.

Asked if it was realistic to be proposing so many, given the current depressed state of the property market, and whether it was likely that they would be built, he said: “On a phased basis, over the 10-year life of the permission, I would be optimistic. It is Ballsbridge after all.”

Apart from residential, the scheme includes 4,083sq m (43,950sq ft) of retail, 1,827sq m (19,666sq ft) of restaurants, cafes and bars, 1,670sq m (17,975sq ft) of creches and healthcare facilities and a 6,500sq m (69,966sq ft) for a 151-bedroom, four-star hotel.

All existing buildings on the site, primarily the two hotels, would be demolished. But the “vast majority” of the trees would be retained as well as most of the perimeter railings.

Mr Phillips also pointed out that the plot ratio (the overall floorspace of the buildings in relation to the area of the site) was lower than in the schemes proposed by Glenkerrin for the adjoining veterinary college site and Mountbrook itself for the site of Hume House next door.

“This ticks all the boxes in terms of plan-led development,” he said.

“And it wasn’t a case of limbo dancing, because we’ve greatly exceeded the standards specified for apartment sizes and open space. We’ve also taken account of microclimatic conditions and done wind tunnel tests.”

Given An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission to Mountbrook for the redevelopment of Hume House, which was designed by HKR Architects, Mr Phillips said he was “very hopeful” that the board would also approve the latest scheme for the Jurys/Berkeley Court site.

Irish Times

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