Saturday 18 November 2017

Safety fears for public as parts fall off city offices

A safety scaffold has been erected at Hawkins House in Dublin
A safety scaffold has been erected at Hawkins House in Dublin
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Health bosses have been forced to place decking around one of the capital's ugliest buildings amid fears that parts of the structure might come loose during winter storms.

The Department of Health said that "protective measures" had been installed at its Hawkins House offices following a survey from the Office of Public Works (OPW) in recent months.

Voted the worst building in Dublin, the 12-storey eyesore was designed by Sir Thomas Bennett and was erected in 1962.

It replaced the Theatre Royal, and was marketed as a "prestige building" when it opened.

But now there are concerns that panels erected on the exterior are in danger of falling off and causing injury to passers-by, visitors and staff.

The OPW said an outer structure had been put in place to "protect the external facade of the building".

The move comes because parts of the panels on the exterior have been falling off, and there is concern that a serious injury might arise if a larger piece fell.

The OPW said: "It is a precautionary measure to protect the facade of the building in the coming winter months.

"It has been put in place to deal with any possibility that material from the facade may come loose and fall."

The Department of Health added that the scaffolding was erected following a building survey, but insisted the structure was sound.

"While the building is safe, precautionary protective measures should be put in place for Hawkins House in advance of the winter," it said.

"This included the placing of a deck or platform around both annexes to the building to deal with the possibility of any material falling from the exterior."

The building has long been earmarked for redevelopment due to its poor state of repair and unsuitability for modern offices.

Its city centre location would be an attractive proposition for a commercial developer keen to build offices and residential units.

In 2008, former Health Minister Mary Harney said it had "long been recognised" that the building was "not a viable long-term headquarters" for the department.

It was intended to move the department to a building vacated by the OPW on St Stephen's Green, and to redevelop the site with a private sector partner.

However the plans did not proceed.

It is now being suggested that the Department of Health might relocate to the Central Bank on Dame Street when the bank moves to a new office in the Dublin Docklands.

Irish Independent

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