The public commentary on the national children's hospital during the past few days has afforded a fascinating insight into Ireland's predominantly suburban mindset.
The unconsciously pejorative term 'Dublin's north inner city' has peppered much debate -- a term, curiously enough, that would translate into 'Dublin city centre' for an equivalent site on the south side of the city.
Likewise, the general public consensus that a 'greenfield' or 'M50' site should be deployed, in typical American sprawl style, over the inherent social, economic and civic benefits of a large brownfield site as part of a stimulating urban setting, speaks volumes of our sprawling, car-dominated culture -- ironically, a culture that promotes childhood obesity.
In its decision, An Bord Pleanala has stood up for urban life in Ireland by rejecting a proposal that would have grievously undermined the much undervalued architectural heritage of Dublin's north city centre and, in particular, by dismissing a project that paid scant regard to the provisions of an award-winning Local Area Plan that sought to accommodate this hospital and enhance the quality of life in the urban quarter.
Also, remarks on this letters page on Saturday arguing for the side-stepping of the expert opinion of the board, and to blindly plough through due process, merely confirm we have learnt nothing from the spectacular planning failures of the recent past.
In considering the board's decision, we must not lose sight of the fact that the national children's hospital is a major civic building and should unquestionably be located on a capacious and accessible urban site in the city. The fact that the wrong site was chosen should not dilute this aspiration.
Conservation Research Officer,
Dublin Civic Trust
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