Council permits demolition of Dublin Georgian houses against advice

Civic Trust says architectural protection ‘rendered meaningless’

61 and 62 Thomas Street, Dublin 8. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

61 and 62 Thomas Street, Dublin 8. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Dublin City Council has extended permission for a modern office block on the site of two Georgian houses on Thomas Street, against the advice of its own senior planner and the Dublin Civic Trust.

Acting senior executive planner Claire Sheehan recommended against allowing the development of a five-storey glass-fronted building and the demolition of the houses at 61 and 62 Thomas Street, which are in an architectural conservation area (ACA).

Her recommendation was supported by the Dublin Civic Trust. The trust had designed specific guidelines on behalf of the council on the treatment of the site, which is close to Vicar Street and is part of a group of three houses known as Vicar Street Terrace.

However, Ms Sheehan was subsequently overruled following a review by the acting deputy city planner, John O’Hara, who said permission for the retail and office block should be extended until 2019.

Permission lapsed

Since the original permission was granted, Thomas Street has been designated an ACA by the council, a planning control that aims to preserve the character of historic areas.

In her assessment of the application for an extension, Ms Sheehan said the proposed development did not comply with the conservation designation and was no longer consistent with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. “The design as permitted cannot be considered to be in keeping with the objectives for the ACA.”

She said the amalgamation of two of the three original plots of the terrace showed insufficient regard for the existing grain or character of the street.

Mr O’Hara said the recommendation for refusal put too much emphasis on the plot width and the proposal did not “materially contravene” the city development plan.

‘Semi-demolished state’

The Civic Trust said the decision to allow the development was frustrating as it “rendered meaningless” the conservation status given to the street.

“There seems to be an attitude here that any development is better than none, even in a historic streetscape such as Thomas Street,” said Graham Hickey, conservation officer with the trust.

“While we fully support investment in Thomas Street, new development should respond in an intelligent way to the historic fine grain. This doesn’t mean reproduction or pastiche design, but it should include creative interpretation of former plot divisions and retention of existing historic structures wherever possible.”