A controversial apartment development in the Dublin suburb of Blackrock, which was opposed by the former president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, and a Government department, has received planning permission.
An Bord Pleanála has approved plans to build 100 apartments on the site of the former Europa Garage on the corner of Newtown Avenue and Maretimo Terrace at the southern end of Blackrock.
The development by Seabren Developments, which is run by members of the Moran family who own the Red Cow hotel complex on the Naas Road in Dublin, will consist of two apartment blocks up to seven storeys in height on a prominent site in the south side suburb.
More than 35 submissions raising concerns about the project were received, including ones from Mr Cox, a former MEP and TD, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
The proposed development is almost double the size of a previous scheme for 42 apartments and nine houses planned for the same 0.5 hectare site by another developer, Crekav, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2017 but which did not go ahead.
Two years earlier, the board had refused plans for a similar-sized project on the basis it constituted overdevelopment of the site.
In its latest ruling, the board said that subject to compliance with a number of planning conditions, the apartment scheme would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenities of neighbouring properties or the general area as well as being acceptable in terms of pedestrian and traffic safety.
It said the development constituted an acceptable density and number of housing units in an accessible urban location.
The board said it had specific regard for the view of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council management which also supported the development.
However, it ordered the omission of one apartment from the original total of 101 units proposed by Seabren.
Opponents of the development claimed its height is excessive and materially contravenes the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan, while also raising concerns that it will negatively affect nearby protected structures and the Blackrock Architectural Conservation Area as well as creating further traffic congestion in Blackrock and depreciating the value of neighbouring properties.
Mr Cox, a resident of nearby Maretimo Gardens East in Blackrock, said what was accepted as overdevelopment in 2015, and as reasonable in 2017, had now “exploded”.
The former journalist and politician suggested the “hyper-density and scale” of the scheme was designed to allow it to be assessed under the fast-track planning process for strategic housing developments over 100 units.
Mr Cox said he was aware there was serious concern about the proposed development among the local community.
While development of the site was inevitable and desirable in the context of housing needs, Mr Cox said the issue was “about striking a fair and reasonable balance”.
In a submission, the department said Seabren’s plans did not appear to have regard for Blackrock’s wider built heritage and archaeological significance.
The department said it appeared to be justified solely on increasing and doubling the height and density of previous schemes allowed on the site using recent changes to guidelines on building heights.
“The contrast between the proposed development and the previous design approaches highlights the lack of consideration and importance placed on the built heritage context,” it noted.
The department said the proposed development could be regarded as “a significant intrusion” into the architectural character of the area and called for a reduction in its excessive height and prominence along a coastal route.
Seabren, which bought the site from another developer, Marlet, claims the development is a sustainable use of appropriately zoned, highly accessible and serviced brownfield site in Blackrock.
It has offered 10 units to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to comply with Part V social housing obligations at a total cost of almost €3.5 million.
The company has indicated the cost for two-bed apartments at €515,161 with one-bed units at €307,632.