Chelsea meets Clanbrassil Street: ‘New urban mews’ proposal for Portobello

Mixed reaction to central Dublin mixed-use development just inside the Grand Canal

A joyful press release came in from the architects Douglas Wallace announcing that Dublin City Council had granted planning permission “with no appeal” for Orr’s Terrace, “a new urban mews lane scheme” described, in a quote from project architect Hugh Wallace, as “a wonderful ‘hideaway’ development”, inspired by “the mews lanes of London’s Knightsbridge and Chelsea”.

The site, at 39-42A Clanbrassil Street Upper, Dublin 2, on the left just before the bridge as you leave town; some of it is under low-rise buildings, and the north end houses food outlets including a double-decker bus repurposed for pizzas.

The approved scheme for developer Clopen Capital is a two-block, mixed-used development of two apartments and nine three- and four-bedroom houses with gardens and roof terraces; it includes two commercial units fronting on to Clanbrassil Street.

Our interest was piqued by the mention of no appeal, and this is where the story gets complex. There’s no appeal in relation to this scheme, but a concurrent proposal by the same developer for the site that includes 28 apartments in two blocks of up to four storeys was approved in February; in March that decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) by the developer, by a residents’ group, and by other neighbours.

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Last year, a 2019 proposal for the site involving 36 apartments in two blocks of up to six storeys was refused permission by ABP on grounds that it would, as the Board put it, “constitute overdevelopment and would be excessively overbearing on adjoining properties to the north”, and other reasons it considered contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

The two 2020 applications drew respectively 13 and 16 third-party observation letters, including detailed submissions from individual neighbours and residents’ groups. Their issues include height, sunlight, visual intrusion, density, access and discordance with the residential area.

Wallace told The Irish Times the neighbours’ and planners’ concerns were mitigated as much as possible in the new design and were addressed in consultation prior to submitting the application – the design statement makes particular reference to the impact on the cottages at Garden Terrace, the lack of light in one block, and access. However, the architect lamented the drawbacks of the system that he said limit dialogue after a developer lodges an application.

Wallace said, while there are some lovely buildings on Clanbrassil Street, there are some derelict properties and some “newer architecture of exceptionally dubious quality”. The proposal is sympathetic to the area, he said, emphasising that this end of the street needs a lift and that the replacement commercial units will add a sense of “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker” to the community.

A decision is due by July 13th, at which time the developer will weigh up their options. “Cities move on and they have to be dense to survive,” said Wallace. Just how dense his client will be allowed to make this part of Portobello will soon become apparent.