Cobblestone: Pub owner ‘eternally grateful’ as redevelopment plan refused

Demolition of part of Dublin traditional-music pub ‘would set an undesirable precedent’

One of Ireland’s most famous traditional music pubs, The Cobblestone in Dublin would be incorporated into a proposed new hotel. In the plans it would lose much of the space that hosts musical events and classes. Video: Bryan O'Brien


The owner of one of the country’s most famous traditional music pubs is “eternally grateful” for the support, after Dublin City Council refused planning permission to build a hotel around the venue.

Marron Estates applied to the council for permission to construct a nine-storey hotel at 77-80 North King Street, in Smithfield, Dublin 7, which includes the Cobblestone. As a protected structure, the pub would have been retained as part of the proposed development, but an outdoor area and the pub’s Backroom venue would have been demolished.

The plan proved contentious: almost 700 objections were lodged with the council; an online petition, Save the Cobblestone, gathered almost 35,000 signatures; and rallies in support of the pub were held. Objectors to the proposals include Steve Wall, a founding member of The Stunning and The Walls; the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald; the Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett; and from the Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe and TD Neasa Hourigan.

Dublin City Council refused permission for the proposed development, citing four reasons largely relating to the size and impact on historic structures.

Thomas Mulligan, who has operated the pub for more than 30 years, said the news was a “great start to the week”.

“I am feeling very grateful. I am just very humbled by the support we have recieved in recent weeks,” he told The Irish Times.

“I thought it was dead in the water but then all of these people came out of nowhere and they really helped. I’m eternally grateful to them.”

Mr Mulligan acknowledged that this is only the beginning and the developer could appeal the decision.

“Hopefully the landlord might have second thoughts about the way in which the development is done. That’s the hope,” he added.

In its decision, Dublin City Council said the proposed nine-storey-over-basement development would be “overbearing and significantly out of scale and character with the prevailing architectural context” and that the hotel would amount to “substantial over-development of this highly sensitive site”, which consists of three- to four-storey historic buildings, two of which are protected structures.

“Furthermore, the proposed new four- to six-storey development over the existing structures would completely overwhelm the protected structures and would cause serious injury to their amenity, architectural significance, legibility, special architectural character and setting.”

The nine-story development would also appear “unduly dominant in the streetscape and visually incongruous”. The local authority added that the demolition would “represent an unacceptable loss of historic fabric and would cause serious injury to the setting of the protected structures”. “Furthermore, it is the opinion of the planning authority that the proposed development would not make a positive contribution to the urban character of the area.”

Dublin City Council added that the proposal would be “contrary to development plan provisions in respect of culture in the city, due to the removal of a space which has been used for teaching, rehearsal and performance for traditional music ... and which is considered to make an important contribution to the cultural offering in the area”. Its demolition would therefore “set an undesirable precedent in this regard” and be contrary to “the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

A report lodged on behalf of Marron Estates by the McCutcheon Halley planning consultancy said the scheme had been designed to respond sensitively to the existing protected structures and would incorporate and adapt the buildings for new use.

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, a musician, and the person who set up the Save Our Cobblestone petition, said the news of permission being denied is “brilliant”, adding that the public really got behind the campaign.

“It really shows what people power can do. It’s great news but it’s not over yet, the developer can still appeal,” he added.

Mr Ó Ceannabháin said the public support for the campaign was based on two points.

“Firstly, I think it was the importance of the Cobblestone to the local community and the music community, folk music,” he said.

“But also, I think it was the last straw for a lot of people over what’s happening in Dublin recently where we keep rolling out the red carpet for developers and then there are a huge number of hotels going up.”

Ms Hourigan also welcomed the decision, stating on Twitter: “Do I dare to hope for the future of cultural space in Dublin? Down to the people power of everyone who got involved!”

Dublin city councillor Nial Ring said it is a “great day for our rich musical culture, our language and our heritage”.

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