RTE's €350m site upgrade 'vital' to future of broadcaster
NATIONAL broadcaster RTE must invest €350m in state-of-the-art facilities to remain competitive and provide viewers with high-definition digital television, a planning hearing was told yesterday.
Cathal Goan, director general of RTE, said technological changes meant it was no longer possible to upgrade its existing buildings on the Dublin 4 campus, and that it would be "uneconomical" to attempt to do so.
Mr Goan was speaking on the opening day of a public hearing into RTE's 'Project 2025' plan, which, if approved by An Bord Pleanala, would result in a complete redevelopment of the Montrose campus.
The broadcaster is seeking permission to consolidate all its activities across TV, radio, online, publishing and the arts into a new purpose-built complex on a seven-hectare portion of its Donnybrook site.
Technical and studio spaces were inadequate, Mr Goan said, and upgrading them would be expensive.
RTE would not be able to continue broadcasting during upgrading, and the only option was to build new facilities.
"RTE has now reached a point when it can no longer continue economically to re-engineer or add to its existing facilities," he said.
"To remain competitive and to continue to give Irish viewers, listeners and web users the best-possible services, we now have to invest in new facilities built to meet the demands of the digital age."
The existing TV centre and programme building would be retained for possible use as a digital media hub, where offices would be leased to private firms.
But the radio centre, library, sound stage, multi-storey car park and Fair City set would be demolished to make way for the new broadcasting centre, which would be built over 10 years in five phases.
The plan also requires a new entrance into the complex, to be built off the N11 Stillorgan Road.
The new complex would see three buildings developed, with the tallest rising to 28.5 metres and facing the N11. The buildings would be "stepped down" towards the rear of the site, to 10.7 metres.
In a submission, architect Peter Dudley of Scott Tallon Walker -- the company which designed the existing radio and television buildings -- said RTE had acquired additional land, new buildings and applied new master plans to the site since it was built in the 1960s.
Project 2025 should be seen as an "architectural continuum", he said, and it would be "wrong to suggest the existing buildings be frozen in time".
Some 650 construction jobs would be created if the plans were approved.
Among the high-profile objectors are representatives from the German Embassy, who have raised security concerns, and businessman Dermot Desmond, whose home backs on to the property.
They are expected to give evidence today.