Altered city plan could aid hospital concerns - expert


Planning concerns around the national children’s hospital could be swept away with a simple variation to the Dublin city development plan, a former head of the Irish Planning Institute has said.

Fergal MacCabe, a city planning expert and consultant, made his comments in light of a report highlighting possible hurdles to the chosen site.

The document, produced by the Office of Public Works for the Department of Health, says the zoning specification at the St James’s Hospital location is “no longer clear” following a High Court ruling last April. It also raises the possibility that the proposed structure would exceed planning guidelines.

The potential for delays is sensitive given An Bord Pleanála’s refusal to green-light the Mater site, a decision that rendered a €26 million investment unrecoverable.

Details of the OPW report prompted Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to question Minister for Health James Reilly’s handling of the situation. “I hope that the cautions highlight by the OPW do not materialise because the last thing we need is a further delay.”

However, Mr MacCabe told The Irish Times the issues, while of significance, are not a realistic threat to the project.

“If Dublin City Council put in a very clear-cut variation into the development plan that would all but copper-fasten the development.”

Details of the OPW report point in particular to a lack of clarity surrounding zoning. It says Dublin City Council is considering its response on the matter and that a variation to the development plan, which sets out future parameters of construction projects in the area, might be necessary.

Last April a High Court ruling quashed a Z15 zoning objective on foot of a judicial review case, the details of which are not specified.

“It is understood that there was no objection in principle to institutional zoning as such, but rather to the discriminatory policy towards residential development within the zone,” states the report.