Court challenge to permission for 18-storey tower beside Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Applicants claim development would have negative impact on neighbouring museum

A challenge has been initiated in the High Court aimed at overturning permission for a build-to-rent apartment scheme that includes an 18-storey tower beside the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

An Bord Pleanála granted fast-track permission in March for 399 build-to-rent apartments in the Heuston South Quarter (HSQ).

The judicial review has been brought by architect Paul Leech, who lives in an apartment block adjacent to the former hospital, and former Irish Times journalist Frank McDonald, of Temple Bar.

The applicants point to concerns raised by a series of heritage bodies, including the Office of Public Works, the Heritage Council and An Taisce, about the development’s potential impact on the former hospital, which is now the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and its gardens.


Mr Leech says in a sworn statement that he and his neighbours were taken aback by the proposed scheme which is to be constructed on green areas he said were “vital” and used “intensively” by residents during Covid-19 lockdowns.

He claims the residential units proposed are “very substandard” with “totally inadequate open space”, allegedly contrary to the development plan and Residential Standards for Apartments 2020.

He highlights the potential impact on the neighbouring museum, which he describes as a building of “world importance in terms of its architectural quality and undeniably Ireland’s most important 17th-century public building”. The proposed development, he says, is not sensitive to the architectural integrity and sensitivity of the museum site.

An Bord Pleanála’s handling of concerns flagged by various heritage organisations was “completely inadequate”, Mr Leech submits. He is also concerned about the “paucity of expertise” of the board’s inspector when this type of development requires the “most intricate design”.

In his submission to the court, Mr McDonald says he was “appalled” by the board’s “illogical and manifestly unreasonable” decision, considering the views of various heritage groups. He quotes from his book on the Dublin urban landscape, in which he describes the old hospital as the First Duke of Ormonde’s “third lasting legacy”.

He says the 56-metre tower confirmed his “worst fears” about the impact of 2018 urban building height guidelines, which he says enables an “unprecedented free-for-all” that will see Dublin’s relatively low-rise skylines being “sacrificed on the altar of profit or hubris”.

Among the claims is that the proposed build amounts to a material contravention of the Dublin City Development Plan. Further, they say interested third parties have been deprived of their right to participate in certain steps of the planning process.

As well as an order quashing the board’s grant of planning permission, the applicants seek various declarations as to the alleged invalidity of certain sections of the 2016 Planning and Development Act.

The case against An Bord Pleanála, the Attorney General and Ireland was mentioned before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys on an ex-parte basis on Thursday. Developer HPREF HSQ Investments Limited is a notice party to the proceedings.

Barrister Michael O’Donnell, with Evan O’Donnell, said his client might apply for a stay on the decision when the application seeking permission of the court to pursue the claims returns later this month.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter