Plans to put new doors in historic Bewleys frontage overturned

TGI Friday’s not permitted its own entrance to Fleet Street branch

The Fleet Street Hotel and TGI Friday’s inTemple Bar: a protected structure with decorative windows attributed to Harry Clarke’s father Joshua. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Fleet Street Hotel and TGI Friday’s inTemple Bar: a protected structure with decorative windows attributed to Harry Clarke’s father Joshua. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 01:00

A Dublin City Council decision to allow TGI Friday’s restaurant to make a new entrance in the historic front of the former Bewleys in Westmoreland Street has been overturned by An Bord Pleanála.

The planned entrance, on the Fleet Street side of the building, would have removed the decorative windows attributed to Joshua Clarke, father of artist Harry Clarke, who made the stained-glass windows in Bewley’s on Grafton Street.

An Bord Pleanála said the development would have an adverse impact on the protected structure, and on the architectural integrity of the Architectural Conservation Area, and would also set “an undesirable precedent” for similar developments in the vicinity.

Bewley’s closed its Westmoreland Street cafe, which had operated since 1896, 10 years ago.

The building, on a site bordered by Westmoreland Street, Fleet Street and Price’s Lane on the edge of Temple Bar, is now occupied by three businesses: Starbucks, the Fleet Street Hotel, and TGI Friday’s restaurant.

Attractive, intact feature

The Westmoreland Street entrance is used by Starbucks while the hotel and TGI Friday’s share an entrance on Fleet Street.

Dublin City Council granted permission, in March, to the restaurant chain to create a separate entrance on Fleet Street beside the hotel entrance.

As part of its application, the restaurant’s operator Wagbell Ltd, owned by brothers Colum and Ciarán Butler, had proposed to remove its illuminated signs and a candy-striped awning, both installed without planning permission, from Fleet Street.

The council’s decision was appealed to the board by Westmoreland Street resident Paul MacNulty on the grounds that the new entrance would have a negative impact on the facade of the protected structure.

His appeal was supported by An Taisce, which also said the occupiers would have known the constraints which applied to protected structures when they took on the premises.

As part of its response Wagbell said that the artistic qualities of the windows were “modest” as were its proposed changes.

However, the board’s inspector Patricia Young said the proposal “would diminish the integrity of what is, in its existing state, an attractive, finely balanced, highly unique and intact feature” of an Architectural Conservation Area.

Construction of the entrance would involve the loss of almost 14 per cent of the surviving fabric of the Fleet Street shopfront “which is recognised as being one of the principal defining features of merit and significance of this particular protected structure”.

Concern about prece

dent Ms Young also raised concerns about the precedent which would be set for other protected structures which had been “poorly configured and subdivided” and where their occupiers were trying the remove “architecturally significant historic shopfronts” in order to create separate access for multiple units.

“The proposed intervention to this historic façade alongside the cumulative and incremental diminishment of this protected structure’s integrity from past interventions would compromise the protection of this protected structure in a manner that would be in conflict with local and national planning policy provisions,” she said.