Monday 23 October 2017

Ballsbridge needs plan for its future

John Spain

The downturn in the development process provides a timely opportunity to review future planning and development of Ballsbridge. There has been much controversy in recent years, particularly in relation to the proposals for the former Jurys and Berkeley Court Hotel sites.

To some extent, this has now been resolved by the permission granted by the Board in 2011 for a relatively high density residential scheme with hotel and retail elements. However, this scheme is not likely to proceed in the near future.

Ballsbridge developed as an extension of the city central business district in the 1960s and 1970s with the redevelopment of large houses and their sites and the former Trinity Botanic Gardens. Many of these buildings are dated and are ready for redevelopment.

Only one of the original houses survives on the stretch of road between the American Embassy and Lansdowne House on Northumberland Road, and even this has been much altered.

The other remaining significant historic feature is the former railings and the plinth wall of the former Trinity College Botanic Gardens. The surrounding roads remain of exceptionally high quality in urban form and largely retain their residential functions.

Ballsbridge also functions as a sporting and cultural centre for the city and has nationally important facilities such as the RDS and the Aviva Stadium, as well as an important role in accommodating embassies and hotels.

Herbert Park is a legacy of the Dublin International Exhibition held here in 1907.

The Pembroke Estate and the development of Ballsbridge in the late 19th Century set out an exemplary approach to urban planning, which was unfortunately largely disregarded during the redevelopment of the core of Ballsbridge in the 1960s and 1970s.

The decision of Dublin City Council not to proceed with the making of a Local Area Plan (LAP) for Ballsbridge in 2008 was undoubtedly a lost opportunity.

Whilst councillors may not have agreed with some aspects of the proposals prepared by the city council planners, particularly in relation to building height, the response of the council could have been to amend the plan to take on board its concerns rather than simply to reject it.

Ballsbridge now has no coherent plan to guide its redevelopment.

There is an opportunity to revisit the preparation of an LAP for Ballsbridge to ensure that the opportunities that are presented for the inevitable redevelopment of its core area over the coming decade are utilised to create a high quality new urban form which respects and complements the standards set down by the Pembroke Estate and provides a new and vibrant focal point in the city.

It must be accepted that the core of Ballsbridge has long lost its residential function and does in fact operate as an extension of the central business district. The redevelopment of the core area to a high standard does not necessarily require any significant increase in building heights.

However, it could deliver a very significant improvement in the quality of architecture and urban design over that which exists along the stretch of road, and the introduction of a greater mix of uses serving the needs of local residents, as well as businesses and visitors.

John Spain of John Spain Associates is an IPI accredited planning consultant.

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