Saturday 15 December 2018

Planning permission refused for new children’s hospital



PLANS for the new dedicated children's hospital in Dublin have been refused, it has been confirmed.

Inspectors at An Bord Pleanala rejected the ambitious design proposed for Eccles Street in the north inner city on the same site as the Mater.

Planners ruled out the €450m, 15-storey, 400-bed unit amid concerns over its height and size.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dail today that the government was still committed to building a new children’s hospital in Dublin.

And Health Minister Dr James Reilly said he was disappointed with the decision to refuse planning permission, but said it did not mean that the site was the wrong one.

An international expert group unanimously backed the Mater site as the best for the facility, which will merge the existing children's hospitals at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght.

It had been due to admit the first patients by the end of 2016, a year behind the original target.

Roisin Healy, spokeswoman for the New Children's Hospital Alliance, welcomed the decision to deny permission.

"We've just received in the post from On Bord Pleanala a five or six-page document refusing permission. They are citing incongruity of the height of the building, bulk of the building and that it would adversely affect the city's skyline," said Ms Healy.

Ray Martin, also from the Alliance, said he was delighted by the refusal. He said the choice of location was a purely political one.

"This had nothing to do with sick children and their families. This was about what suited the Government," said Mr Martin.

"We met with ministers, we wrote them letters, we pleaded with them to reconsider and I think we had the backing of 80pc to 90pc of the population.

"Thank God we have a system in place that can say 'No, this is the wrong thing to do'."

Opponents of the Eccles Street development have championed a green field location at Newlands Cross on the western outskirts of the city near the M50, insisting that traffic congestion and limited access would be a major factor at the Mater.

Mr Martin described the choice of an inner city site for the Children's Hospital of Ireland as entirely wrong.

"Some 65pc of patients are from outside the Dublin area, from places as far away as Donegal and Belfast. Travelling into a busy city for the Children's Hospital of Ireland was just a very bad idea," he said.

"Building it on the outskirts would have meant much easier road access for patients and their families. It would mean a hospital for all the country."

Other sites initially in the running included the Tallaght Hospital and beside James Connolly Memorial in Blanchardstown.

The full cost had been expected to hit somewhere in the region of €650m, with €450m from the state and €200m from good causes funds.

The Government had also been sizing up the idea of selling the National Lottery licence to a new operator and using a cash windfall from an upfront payment to fund the plan.

An Bord Pleanala listed the following reasons for refusal:

- The bulk and height of the 100,000 square metres building - 164 metres long and 74 metres high - was too large for the site.

- The building's height, scale, form and mass would result in a dominant and visually incongruous structure.

- It would therefore have a negative impact on the appearance of the city's skyline.

- It would contravene development policy, which seeks to protect the skyline and ensure that any tall buildings enhance the urban character of the city.

- The building would be a bad fit for the historic nature of the city.

- It would detract from the setting and character of protected structures and streetscapes.

- It would hamper favoured vistas of O'Connell Street and North Great George's Street.

- The building would constitute the over-development of the site.

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