Cairn gets permission for 608 apartments at former RTÉ lands but tower refused

Housebuilder’s plan for 16-storey tower to contain hotel refused in appeals board decision

An Bord Pleanála has granted planning permission to Cairn Homes for a €345 million, 608-unit apartment scheme on former RTÉ lands at Donnybrook in Dublin 4. However, in a split decision the appeals board has refused permission for the 16-storey tower component of the scheme that was to include a 192-bedroom hotel and 80 apartments.

The appeals board inspector Rónán O’Connor in the case had recommended that permission be granted for the entire development comprising 688 apartments and the hotel. However, the board order has explained that the proposed landmark building was located within an area not specifically designated for landmark/tall buildings, where there is a general presumption against such buildings.

In relation to the specific siting and design of the 16-storey high tower, the board did not consider that the design proposed provides a compelling architectural and urban design rationale that would facilitate the consideration of exceptional circumstances.

The scheme is to be built across the remaining nine blocks ranging from two to 10 storeys in height. The original scheme comprised 416 built-to-rent apartments and 272 build-to-sell units.


The grant of the 10-year planning permission comes six years after Cairn Homes purchased the lands from RTÉ for €107.5 million in 2017.

The application made under the Large Scale Residential Development (LRD) procedure was Cairn Homes’s second attempt to build on the lands. A previous planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála was quashed by the High Court arising from an action taken by three Ailesbury Road residents, Chris Comerford, John Gleeson and Pat Desmond.

The current application came before An Bord Pleanála after six third-party appeals were lodged against the decision by Dublin City Council to grant planning permission for the entire scheme last December. The appellants included Pat Desmond, the wife of billionaire Dermot Desmond, and Ailesbury Road neighbours in Dublin 4, along with the Republic of Austria, which has its embassy on Ailesbury Road.

In his conclusions board inspector Mr O’Connor concluded that the proposed development would result “in a significant contribution to the housing stock, in a time of housing need”.

He said: “The provision of a development of the nature and scale of proposed development at this location is desirable having regard to its location on a main thoroughfare into the city, close to Donnybrook village, and within 3.5km of the city centre.”

Mr O’Connor also concluded that the scale of development was appropriate due to the site’s proximity “to high, frequency, high capacity bus services, and having regard to the existing pedestrian and cycle infrastructure facilities”.

He said he was satisfied that “the height, bulk and massing, detailed design and layout of the scheme were acceptable, and that furthermore the proposed development would result in significant positive impacts on visual amenity of the area, when viewed from particular locations, and would result in significant positive impacts on architectural heritage”.

Mr O’Connor also concluded that the scheme complies with the additional “exceptional circumstances” criteria that apply to taller landmark buildings proposed on sites such as this one. He said: “The future occupiers of the scheme will also benefit from a high standard of internal amenity.”

Ms Desmond made a joint appeal with neighbours on Ailesbury Road, Chris Comerford and John and Imelda Gleason.

On behalf of the four Ken Kennedy Solicitors told the appeals board that his clients were concerned that the scale and height of the proposed development would see it having a negative impact on the private amenity and enjoyment of their properties, which are all protected structures and private homes.

Others to have lodged appeals were Brian and Orla Murphy of Stillorgan Road, Donnybrook; Sharon Mullin of Stillorgan Road, Donnybrook; and the Anglesea Road, Ailesbury Drive and Ailesbury Grove Residents Association.

The Ailesbury Apartments Management Co Ltd appealed against two conditions attached to the permission.

Cairn Homes has been contacted for comment.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times