Thomas Street deserves to be protected from destruction

Opinion: The Dublin street is downtrodden and a bit rough but beautiful in its own way

22/07/2014 PROPERTY  THOMAS Street61 and 62 Thomas Street 9this includes 61 a .Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

22/07/2014 PROPERTY THOMAS Street61 and 62 Thomas Street 9this includes 61 a .Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 08:52

Thomas Street is a street that missed the boom. When I was a kid, the street – and the environs of the Liberties in Dublin – always seemed chaotic. Stalls were stacked high with toilet rolls, grannies twisted the plastic handles of candy-striped bags around their fingers while rooting out coins from their purses on the way into the butchers, black-market tobacco sellers called out brand names. It was dirty and a bit grim, but it had something the wide- boy builders had yet to ruin: soul. Thomas Street had life. It still does. If you walk down Thomas Street today, that buzz is still there. So it missed the boom, thank God. It’s one of the lucky ones. It could have been Cork Street – a street once populated by warehouses and flats and cottages and houses and shops and great brickwork and interesting rough-and- ready buildings. They’re gone now, because developers were given planning permission to build apartment blocks that have the aesthetic charm of correctional facilities, the functionality of underwater hairdryers, the longevity of an X Factor semifinalist and the soul of a discarded yogurt carton. That’s “progress”, apparently.

Not gentrified

But Thomas Street – somehow – was largely immune to the terrible building from which spree we’re still recovering. It’s a walkway of NCAD students, tourists on their way to the Guinness brewery, new Irish, old Irish. Rent on Thomas Street is still relatively cheap. It has one of the best bars in the country, the Thomas House. It has one of the best music venues in the country, Vicar Street. It has bakeries and cafes and shops and markets and artists’ studios and churches and derelict buildings and shut-down units and homes where people live above shops. It has retained a lot of old signage, unlike the plastic detritus that has destroyed so many Dublin shopfronts. Thomas Street is not gentrified, it’s just a living street. Imagine that.

Last week, Dublin City Council went against the advice of its acting senior executive planner, Claire Sheehan, who recommended against the demolition of two Georgian Houses in an architectural conservation area (ACA), in order to build a five-storey glass-fronted building.

Her recommendation, which had the support of the Dublin Civic Trust (DCT), was overruled following a review by the acting deputy city planner, John O’Hara.

Five years ago, when planning was granted for this building, Sheehan was on board. But like many recession-era developments, nothing had taken place yet, and planning permission was due to run out this year. Since then, Thomas Street has been classed as an ACA, and so Sheehan revised her initial granting of permission when the planning permission extension came up. Fair enough.

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