Monday 22 January 2018

ESB's €150m HQ plan faces fresh opposition

ESB: an artist’s impression of the new-look offices
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The ESB's planned €150m redevelopment of its Dublin HQ has come under fire from objectors including An Taisce, which has labelled the proposals as "seriously at variance" with zoning objectives.

The ESB intends to demolish the existing headquarters on the site on Lower Fitzwilliam Street, to make way for a seven-storey building that the State-owned electricity firm insists is respectful to the surrounding Georgian landscape.

Dublin City Council said last month that it intended to grant permission for the massive scheme on a controversial site.

But in an appeal to An Bord Pleanala just lodged by An Taisce, the national trust agency claims that the planned development would "unbalance" Georgian Dublin due to the new HQ's "major scale and bulk".

An Taisce said that the ESB's plan to "reinterpret" the Georgian architecture of Fitzwilliam Street is "unsatisfactory" and that the development would be at odds with Dublin City Council's own development plan for the area.

"We are concerned about the overwhelmingly commercial nature of the proposed scheme and the applicant's failure to meaningfully consider the Fitzwilliam Street frontage for residential use," added An Taisce.

High-profile architectural critic Shane O'Toole has also objected to the scheme, as has former An Taisce press officer Ruadhan MacEoin. He's also a film-maker and conservation activist.

Peer Sweetman, a well-known objector to energy projects around the country, has also voiced his opposition to the ESB HQ plans to An Bord Pleanala.

He said that 50 years ago, he marched against the plans for the original redevelopment of the street by the ESB.

The council's own planner said last month that the proposed ESB plans would be an "acceptable form of development which would not adversely affect the character and setting of the Georgian city and would there be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".

The planner also acknowledged that the commitment of the ESB to consolidate its future in the city centre area "is a significant gain".

The ESB is also understood to be appealing aspects of some of the conditions imposed on the development by the council. An Bord Plenala will decide the case by June.

Irish Independent

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