Scaled back plans for a hotel over the Cobblestone pub in Dublin will ensure the venue's important cultural offering will be maintained, according to architects for Marron Estates Ltd, C+W O’Brien Architects.
They told An Bord Pleanala that instead of the original 114-bedroom, nine-storey scheme put forward by Marron Estates to Dublin City Council, the company is now proposing a seven-storey scheme over the protected structure on King Street in Smithfield.
As part of the appeal against the comprehensive refusal by the council to An Bord Pleanala, C+W O’Brien Architects is proposing “the retention of the entire Cobblestone pub over all floors at basement, ground and first and second floors”.
The removal of the backroom of the Cobblestone pub was a controversial component of the original scheme and was also a specific ground of refusal by the council.
The council stated the loss of the existing backroom area to the rear of the pub, which has developed as a space for the teaching, rehearsing and performing of traditional music, would be contrary to development plan provisions in respect of culture in the city.
Now, Marron Estates is proposing to relocate the backroom “to a purpose-built performing space contained within the retained historic yard to the rear of the site”.
On behalf of C+W O’Brien Architects, Arthur O’Brien states: “In order for the proposed development to fulfil the maximum site potential, it was necessary to propose relocating the existing back room venue to a new purpose built performing space, with a direct link to the Cobblestone pub.”
He says that this would allow “for a new space for teaching, rehearsal and performance for traditional music, maintaining the role the existing back room”.
Mr O’Brien says: “This, along with the reduced proposals of maintaining all other uses at first and second floor above the existing Cobblestone pub, would ensure that the important cultural offering would be maintained.”
In the appeal, Mr O’Brien also argues that the reduced seven-storey height “would not be considered inappropriate for this location, given its prominence at the ‘Book End’ that terminates the North/South vista of Smithfield Square”.
The council concluded that the original scheme would result in serious injury to the amenities of adjoining properties.
However, in response, Mr O’Brien states in the appeal: “All developments in a tight urban grain have the potential to impact on the surrounding properties.”
He states: “It must be recognised that due to the city centre location, the constraints of the site and the context of the surrounding environment and properties, any meaningful development on this site will result in some form of impact relating to daylight and sunlight."
“The reduced scheme offered significantly reduce the impact on the surrounding properties,” he further claims.
Arguing for planning permission for the reduced proposal, Mr O’Brien states “it is submitted that the proposal is an appropriate design response to such a well-located site and in offering a reduced proposal, the board will consider this in their assessment of this case.
"Furthermore, this application offers an opportunity to redevelop this important site, one that has laid vacant and in disrepair for a substantial number of years."
The council refused planning permission after a large-scale campaign for the complete retention of the Cobblestone pub that resulted in 717 objections being lodged against the scheme.
In the dispute, the Arts Council intervened to state that what was planned “would be a significant cultural loss to the city of Dublin”.
In his objection, Minister for State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD told the council it was clear that the loss of the Cobblestone as a music and performing arts venue “is of deep concern to the whole community”.
Mr Noonan urged the council to refuse planning permission “and prioritise the cultural, social vibrancy and character of the city of Dublin”.
Those who objected to the scheme included founding member of The Stunning and The Walls, Steve Wall.
In his objection, Steve Wall contended:“The Cobblestone is unique. It’s one of the last few pubs in Dublin to hear traditional music and to experience Irish culture. Traditional music in a pub is exactly the sort of experience that most tourists coming to Ireland seek out. Not a hotel bar! The proposal to engulf it into a hotel will destroy it.”
Mr Wall said that the Cobblestone “has been an integral part of Smithfield and musicians travel to it from all over Dublin”.
“It must be saved,” he added.
A decision is due on the appeal in April.