Tuesday 19 September 2017

Irish Life Baggot Street plan appealed to An Bord Pleanala

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Irish Life's plan to demolish and redevelop Bord Failte's former headquarters on Dublin's Baggot Street has been thrown into question following an appeal to An Bord Pleanala by a group representing a number of the country's foremost architects.

The appeal, which is due to be decided upon by this November, was submitted to the Bord three weeks ago by the Irish chapter of DoCoMoMo - an international organisation established in 1988 to document and conserve buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of architecture's modern movement.

Calling for Dublin City Council's decision allowing for the building's redevelopment to be overturned, the group's chairman, Simon Walker, claims that the city's planners failed to properly consider the architectural quality and heritage of the former Bord Failte headquarters. The building was the first major commission awarded in 1961 to Mr Walker's late father, the renowned architect, Robin Walker, as a senior partner in Michael Scott & Partners.

Developed by Irish Life more than half a century ago, 74-75 Baggot Street had been occupied by the former Bord Failte up until 2006 under the terms of a 99-year lease from 1961. Irish Life secured full ownership of the 2,290 sq m (24,649 sq ft) office building in February 2015 after it paid in the region of €4m to for its long leasehold interest.

Last November, the company submitted a planning application to Dublin City Council in which it sought to demolish the existing five-storey over lower ground floor structure and replace it with a six-storey building over two basement levels with an overall footprint of 7,024 sq m (75,605 sq ft). The application received the Council's approval on June 23 last.

In objecting to the Baggot Street building's demolition, Mr Walker takes issue with what he describes as Irish Life's "prejudiced, incomplete and inaccurate arguments as to why the original building cannot be refurbished". He says Dublin City Council's planners "appear to rely" on those arguments in granting permission for the property's demolition and replacement.

Mr Walker criticises the city's planners further for their alleged failure to address either the "substance of the observation" or 57 separate arguments submitted by DoCoMoMo in its original objection to Irish Life's plan for the former Bord Failte headquarters.

"It is not an acceptable standard of planning assessment to simply provide a blanket statement that 'all relevant comments/objections have been taken into account during the determination of the proposed redevelopment', without actually addressing the objections…" Mr Walker wrote.

Elsewhere in his submission, Mr Walker contends that Dublin City Council's economic policy is "not sufficient to permit the wholesale destruction of the architectural heritage of the Modern period, as is presently happening on several sites within the city centre. The economic policy objectives of the council can be achieved without the demolition of 1960s and 1970s buildings of architectural merit."

A request to Dublin City Council for comment on Mr Walker's submission to An Bord Pleanala met with no response.

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