Arnotts granted planning permission for scaled-down city centre scheme

 

DUBLIN'S PROPOSED "Northern Quarter" retail district has been substantially reduced in scale by An Bord Pleanála's decision to approve revised plans by Arnotts department store for the €750 million development.

Arnotts is believed to have invested at least €100 million in acquiring all of the properties on the 5.5-acre site, which stretches from Henry Street to Middle Abbey Street and from Penneys on O'Connell Street to Liffey Street.

As designed by HKR Architects and approved by Dublin City Council's planners, the scheme was to include a 16-storey tower on the corner of Liffey Street Upper and Middle Abbey Street. This has been reduced to a six-storey building.

Last April, the appeals board said in a letter to the developers that the proposed tower would be "unduly obtrusive on the skyline" and would "seriously detract from the balance and architectural coherence of these streets".

The board effectively ordered Arnotts to scale down its overall plans, reducing the height of the buildings to a maximum of seven storeys as well as halving the number of parking spaces sought and dropping plans to redesign the facade of Penneys.

This was in response to appeals by An Taisce, which opposed the high-rise buildings as well as the partial demolition of protected structures; and the Railway Procurement Agency, which was concerned about the impact of extra traffic on the Tallaght Luas line.

In its grant of permission subject to 26 conditions - issued a year after the city council approved the original plans - Bord Pleanála said the revised scheme "would constitute an appropriate mix and intensity of land uses at this location".

Apart from retail, including extensions to the existing Arnotts and Penneys stores, 47 shops and 14 cafes, restaurants and bars, the quarter will include 121 apartments and a 149-bedroom hotel in Independent House.

The board's decision specifies that all works to Independent House, a protected structure, "shall be carried out in accordance with best conservation practice" as detailed in the Department of the Environment's guidelines.

However, it permits the developers to demolish nearly half of the 1890s frontage of Arnotts on Henry Street, west of its flat-topped tower, even though this is also a protected structure, to make way for part of a new street network on the site.

The proposed layout would include a new street linking Henry Street with Prince's Street (at present a cul-de-sac beside the GPO), which would have a new urban square at the end of it; and the widening of dank William's Lane to form a pedestrian street.

The board specified that there must be "24-hour public access to all of the proposed new public streets and spaces", including the proposed "Abbey Square", and that none of the retail units can have security shutters without prior planning permission.

The developers must also carry out an independent road safety audit of the proposed access arrangements, including an assessment of the implications for the safety and operation of the Tallaght Luas line.

Arnotts had sought approval for 683 parking spaces in a three-level basement car park on the site, but this was capped at 350 spaces, of which 121 must be reserved for residents of the proposed apartments.

The developers are also required to make financial contributions to Dublin City Council for the provision of public infrastructure and facilities benefiting the scheme as well as a supplementary contribution towards the Metro North project.

In making its decision to grant permission, the board said it had regard to the central location of the site; the pattern, character and appearance of development in the area; and its proximity to significant public transport facilities.

It also took account of the O'Connell Street Integrated Area Plan (1998) and guidelines issued by the Department of the Environment on architectural heritage protection, sustainable urban housing and retail planning.

HOW THE NORTHERN QUARTER STACKS UP:

47 shops

14 cafes, restaurants and bars

121 apartments

149-bedroom hotel

350 car park spaces

for shoppers and residents

€100m The estimated cost of assembling the site spent by Arnotts