A 399 unit ‘built to rent’ apartment scheme reaching to 18 storeys in height will have “an unacceptable impact” on one of Ireland’s most important built heritage sites, Royal Hospital Kilmainham (RHK) and its gardens.
The State’s property arm, the Office of Public Works (OPW), has told An Bord Pleanala that the next phase of the Heuston South Quarter (HSQ) scheme “would have a significant detrimental impact on the architectural and historical setting of the Royal Hospital building”.
In a hard hitting objection against the 'fast track' HSQ scheme, the OPW state that in the region of 400,000 visitors enjoy the landscaped grounds of the RHK every year.
The OPW has responsibility for the management and care of the RHK and the agency states that the RHK is Dublin's earliest large- scale classical building dating from the 17th century and makes a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of the city.
'Intrude on the visitor experience'
The OPW state that the build-to0rent proposal, due to its sheer mass and height, “will significantly intrude on the visitor experience at this important destination, which is frequented by both international and domestic visitors”.
The objection states that the ‘essence’ and sense of ‘place-making’ of the formal 17th century gardens will be lost particularly when viewed from the terraces.
The OPW objection states that the two nearest blocks to the RHK “will have an intrusive and unacceptable impact on the architectural character, visitor experience and historic setting of the RHK”.
The OPW has told An Bord Pleanala that the RHK and its gardens “forms one of the most significant public built heritage sites in Ireland”.
In a joint submission on behalf of the OPW, State Architect, Ciaran O’Connor and the agency’s Head of Planning and Estate Management, Martin Bourke state that the RHK’s formal landscape gardens are an important location for health and wellbeing but being overlooked by the scheme “has the potential to alter the public’s enjoyment of this culturally significant landscape”.
Heritage watch-dogs including the Heritage Council and An Taisce have also objected to the scheme lodged by HPREF HSQ Investments Ltd.
In a submission, chief executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan has stated that “high-rise, costly, small-scale build-to-rent apartments are not necessarily the appropriate answer to Dublin or Ireland’s housing needs and it is inappropriate for them to co-opt and overpower the siting and amenity of an internationally-renowned historic garden”.
Dublin City Planning Officer with An Taisce, Kevin Duff states that RHK and its lands are “a cultural landscape of immense importance” and An Taisce is strongly objecting to the scheme.
Former environment editor of The Irish Times, Frank McDonald has told the appeals board it is obvious from photomontages submitted “that this outrageous proposal would have a profoundly negative impact on the setting of RHK and, in particular, its formal garden, which was restored in period style by the OPW following restoration of the main building and its outbuildings in the 1980s”
Mr McDonald claims that the scheme “represents a grotesque slap-in-the-face for Ireland’s most important late 17th century building”.
He states that “if the board fails to uphold proper planning and development in this case, a judicial review in the High Court is almost inevitable”.
The scheme is made up of 250 one bedroom units, 46 studios, 90 two bedroomed four person units and 13 two bedroomed three person units.
Planning documents lodged with the scheme state “that the height, massing and scale of the proposed development have afforded due regard to the existing development forming part of the wider Heuston South Quarter precinct and the need to protect the setting and context of the adjoining Royal Hospital Kilmainham”.
On the impact on the RHK, consultants for the developers, Declan Brassil + Company state that “the design approach has sought to establish a materiality, rhythm and articulation of the massing that responds positively and respectfully to the RHK and its gardens, and enhances views and visual links from the gardens, re-establishing historic links and respecting the significance of the place”.
The consultants state that previously permitted development at HSQ provided for buildings up to 14 storeys, clearly establishing the potential and ability of the site to accommodate taller buildings and higher intensity development.
A decision by the appeals board is due on the scheme next month.