Sunday 26 May 2019

Coalition will be hoping An Bord Pleanála plays ball

An image of the projected Rainbow Garden in the hospital.
An image of the projected Rainbow Garden in the hospital.
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Securing planning permission for the new National Children's Hospital is not a foregone conclusion. The developers have a number of stumbling blocks to overcome before An Bord Pleanála agrees that the much-needed project should go ahead.

Two issues stand out - the first deals with traffic and the second the loss of daylight. The planners' report says the site is well located and well served by public transport, but that the scale of the project will mean local traffic issues may arise.

That means cars may be forced to queue before entering the facility, which could cause local congestion, with knock-on implications for bus services. There is also the question of dealing with the HGVs which will remove some 12,000 tonnes of spoil from the site during construction works and excavations.

As many as 150 trucks could be on site at the peak of construction. That will be difficult to manage at a city-centre location and traffic-management plans will be the subject of some scrutiny.

The second deals with the loss of daylight, although it is stated that this will be "moderate".

Residents in nearby homes may feel aggrieved at the loss of light into their homes, so a potential issue arises there.

That said, it is clear that much thought and work have gone into this proposal.

The planners and designers should be commended, although one could ask why an energy rating of 'A3' and not 'A1' is being sought.

This has nothing to do with feeling good about ourselves - the more energy-efficient a building is, the cheaper it is to operate. That's good news for a financially restrained health service and for climate change.

Exploring using waste heat from St James's Gate is also smart. Hopefully, it is also possible.

An Bord Pleanála will aim to deal with this application within 18 weeks, but that's very aspirational. It is highly likely that there will be objectors and that an oral hearing will be held. How long that lasts depends on who wants to speak and for how long.

Submissions must be lodged by October, after which the question of an oral hearing will be decided.

But if we base the likely outcome on what happened with the ill-fated Mater Hospital proposal, it could be seven months before a decision is made.

The reason for the previous refusal, that the scale of the hospital constituted over-development of the Mater site, is unlikely to be an issue at St James's.

The board should rule by early next year and the Coalition will hope its decision lands before the general election.

With a fair wind, and barring any unforeseen problems, the long-awaited National Children's Hospital should be open by 2020.

Irish Independent

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