Thursday 14 December 2017

Boost for Ronan's Tara St bid

An artist’s impression of how Johnny Ronan’s proposed 22-storey tower, beside Tara Street train station and the Ulster Bank buildings, would look on the city skyline.
An artist’s impression of how Johnny Ronan’s proposed 22-storey tower, beside Tara Street train station and the Ulster Bank buildings, would look on the city skyline.

Ronald Quinlan - Commercial Property Editor

Developer Johnny Ronan's battle to build Dublin's tallest building, next to Tara Street station, has been given something of a boost in advance of the upcoming An Bord Pleanala oral hearing, the outcome of which will decide the project's fate.

While the Bord's inspectors are independent at all times in the exercise of their functions, comments made by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy last Friday on his intention to lift the current restrictions on building heights in city cores should bolster Ronan's bid for a 22-storey (88m) tower comprising offices, a hotel and roof-top restaurant in the heart of the capital.

Addressing the Irish Planning Institute's annual autumn conference, the minister said it was time to address what he termed the "faintly ridiculous restrictions on effective and efficient use of scarce building land", adding that the sprawl that had been taking place up to now would have to stop.

Although the minister's reference to lifting the "numerical height caps" in city cores and along key public transport corridors refers to the heights permissible for residential development in certain key areas of Dublin and other major cities, the development of higher apartment blocks may well strengthen the case for commercial buildings to increase in height too. While a date has yet to be set by An Bord Pleanala for the oral hearing of Ronan's appeal against Dublin City Council's rejection of his plans for Tara Street, the fact that the matter is being dealt with in that forum rather than by way of a written order shows that the issues raised by the developer are deemed to be significant.

Central to the appeal from Ronan's company, Tanat Ltd, will be the contention that its plans for the site had followed the council's own planning policies and objectives for the Tara Street scheme.

In refusing permission for the development, Dublin city planners said Ronan's proposed tower would have a "significant and detrimental visual impact" on the skyline.

The developer is expected to argue at the oral hearing that the Dublin City Development Plan 2016 identified the George's Quay area as a location for high buildings of over 50 metres.

Mr Ronan's team is also expected to say the City Plan and George's Quay Local Area Plan (LAP) prepared by Dublin City Council's planners and adopted by the council includes a provision for an 88-metre-high building on the Tara Street site.

In a detailed comment on the matter provided to this newspaper following Dublin City Council's refusal of planning permission, RGRE's design team said: "The George's Quay Local Area Plan identifies the Tara Street site as the appropriate site for a high building of up to 22 storeys and 88 metres high.

"The plan says it will serve as a distinctive landmark for the city at a key public transport node and will act as a visual counterpoint to Liberty Hall and as a termination of long distance views on a pivotal turning point in the River Liffey by the Loop Line Bridge.

"It is inevitable that any high building provided for on this site by the City Development Plan and George's Quay Local Area Plan would be visible from a wide range of locations around the city."

An assessment, carried out on RGRE's behalf by leading international city design expert Richard Coleman prior to the group's submission of its planning application, concluded that the Tara Street building would complement the Custom House, providing a counterpoint across the river.

Coleman said it would be seen as a backdrop of high-quality design to the redeveloped Hawkins House and Apollo House, and act as a landmark indicating the position of Tara Street station and the River Liffey.

He added that it would not be visible from most of Georgian Dublin and have limited distance views from Trinity College and locations from the northside of the city centre.

Prior to submitting its planning application, RGRE prepared over 30 proposals for Tara Street and reviewed those proposals from 42 locations in the city to assess their impact on Dublin's skyline.

Sunday Independent

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