New homes near Aras 'could give criminals view of President' - gardai
A proposed new housing development near Phoenix Park in Dublin poses a threat to the security of President Michael D Higgins, the OPW and gardai have warned.
Planning files show the OPW has raised an objection to plans to build 33 houses and 31 apartments on a 0.35-site at Blackhorse Avenue, which is adjacent to the Cabra Gate entrance to Phoenix Park.
The OPW, which is responsible for the management of Europe's largest urban public park, said it had "serious concerns" about the proposed development and the safety and security of President Higgins, who lives at Aras an Uachtarain, approximately 400 metres away.
It also expressed concern about the impact the development could have on users of the park, as well as the potential for it to affect the stability of the park's historic perimeter walls which are protected structures.
The plans provide for 33 four-bedroom semi-detached houses and a four-storey apartment block following the demolition of two existing single-storey buildings on the site, which is at the junction of Blackhorse Avenue and Villa Park Road.
The park's chief superintendent Margaret Gormley, on behalf of the OPW, said the security of Aras an Uachtarain could be compromised by the development.
Ms Gormley said the OPW had been advised by gardai that the side elevations of the apartment block looked directly out on to Phoenix Park and people on the top floor or roof garden could see directly into the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain and the front aspect of the main house.
Gardai said the development also allowed views of the internal walkway within the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain that posed "inherent risks to the safety of the President", while daily movements of presidential vehicles could also be observed.
Gardai added a tree line partially obscured views of the main house during the summer months, but as most of the trees were deciduous it meant there was a "near unobscured view" of the front of the main house in winter.
"The President meets and greets all visiting dignitaries at the front of the residence and it appears from plans that there is a vantage point from the proposed apartment complex to allow professional or politically-motivated criminals from committing either criminally or politically-motivated crimes from that location," gardai said.
Ms Gormley said there were no screening or visual barriers planned between the development and Phoenix Park which meant "a visual blight".
"It will considerably limit the public's enjoyment of the park at this location due to being totally overlooked by residents from the apartment block," said Ms Gormley.
The OPW said that Phoenix Park is protected under the National Monuments Acts.
Dublin City council has sought further information from co-developers, Lark Finance and SM Blackhorse, about their plans before making a decision on whether to grant planning permission.
Council planners have also identified problems, claiming the parking and turning layout "is likely to give a high level of conflict between vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists".
They recommended the current configuration of a children's play area needed to be improved.