‘Significant shortcomings’ in Johnny Ronan tower proposal

Building to house 10,361 sq m of offices and ‘penthouse level’ restaurant, hearing told

Artist’s impression of Tara House, intended to be a “landmark gateway” marking the transition between Dublin’s historic core and the contemporary architecture of Docklands

Artist’s impression of Tara House, intended to be a “landmark gateway” marking the transition between Dublin’s historic core and the contemporary architecture of Docklands

 

Dublin City Council architects and planners have said they found “significant shortcomings” in a planning application submitted by developer Johnny Ronan for a landmark 22-storey development beside Tara Street station.

A planning appeal hearing heard on Friday that an expert visual impact assessment of the development proposed by Mr Ronan’s company Tanat Ltd had examined its potential impact, including on views of the Custom House and Trinity College.

Tanat Ltd was refused planning permission for the development by the council in July and appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan told the board’s oral hearing that the proposal in the council’s local area plan was for a “well-considered landmark building”, which had to be a “sophisticated reconciliation of form and function”.

Functions of building

Ms Grehan said it was “very much” the council’s duty to address the function as well as the form of the development in appraising the planning application.

She said the council felt it had difficulty obtaining information from the applicant about the functions of the building.

“We did feel there were significant shortcomings [in the application],” she said.

Paul O’Brien, chairman of the the project’s architects, Henry J Lyons, told the hearing on Thursday that the 22-storey building, which included a 110-bedroom hotel, would be “an exemplar design of architectural merit” utilising “elegant detailing and a palate of high-quality materials”.

The tall building would incorporate 10,361 sq m of office space on floors five to 20 and a rooftop restaurant of some 500 sq m at “penthouse level”, Mr O’Brien said.

Deputy planning officer Mary Conway said the images in the council’s local area plan showing a landmark building on the Tara Street site were “schematic” and purely indicative drawings.

Height, she said, was “not a target to be reached – it’s just a suggested maximum height”.

A planning appeal hearing has heard an expert visual impact assessment of a Tara Street development proposed by Tanat Ltd, a company controlled by Johnny Ronan (above), had examined its potential impact. File photograph: Collins Photos
A planning appeal hearing has heard an expert visual impact assessment of a Tara Street development proposed by Tanat Ltd, a company controlled by Johnny Ronan (above), had examined its potential impact. File photograph: Collins Photos

“No matter what you say and may think, we did have regard to the design,” she told senior counsel for Tanat Ltd, Eamon Galligan. The council had concerns that the plan did not meet the criteria set down in the development plan.

Mr Galligan told the hearing it was “unfair” of the planning authority to come to the hearing having made its decision on the application, and to then raise issues regarding a material contravention of the development plan.

‘Slight disagreement’

He acknowledged “slight disagreement” between the parties on the issues that were relevant to the hearing.

But Mr Galligan said there was “a fair amount of agreement and consensus in the room” as to the appropriate criteria to address the proposal.

What was central to it was how the author of the visual impact assessment, Richard Coleman, had analysed how the development performed against the eight criteria in the development plan. Visual impact was the critical issue, Mr Galligan said.

He said it was “extraordinary” that the council’s focus in its own report was “almost exclusively on visibility”, when Mr Coleman’s assessment indicated there was much more to visual impact than just assessing the visibility of the building itself.

The hearing has concluded.