Bord Pleanála decision surprising

 

Analysis: The news that An Bord Pleanála had decided to refuse permission for the proposed national children’s hospital on the Mater site in Dublin was surprising.

I had expected the board would find a way to approve this controversial project, simply because the Government was so determined to go ahead with it.

After all, ministers had already decided to allocate €200 million from the proceeds of selling the National Lottery to fund the proposed development.

But the Achilles heel of the scheme was its overwhelming height and bulk - the building, after all, would not only have been 74 metres tall but also 134 metres long.

In the view of An Bord Pleanála, echoing numerous objections made at the oral hearing last autumn and the findings of its own planning inspector, Una Crosse, this would “result in a dominant, visually incongruous structure” that would have a “profound negative impact on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline” and the northside Georgian core of the capital.

In effect, what this shows is that the Mater was the wrong site because it couldn’t accommodate a children’s hospital with a floor area of more than 100,000 square metres - or well over one million square feet - without being grossly over-scaled.

As Ms Crosse said in her reports, the application before the board was “the culmination of a process where consideration of the impacts on the receiving environment have been second to clinical requirements”, and this was “the crux of the issue”.

The children’s hospital board headed by Harry Crosbie must now go back to the drawing board and select an alternative site for this €650 million project - perhaps on land controlled by Nama adjoining Tallaght hospital, or in the more extensive grounds of St James’s Hospital.

Another option worthy of consideration by the Department of Health and the Government would be to proceed with plans to extend and upgrade the existing Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, at a modest cost of €104 million.