Residents from Merrion Road in Dublin 4 have failed in their attempts to block the Indian government from establishing a new embassy on the road.
An Bord Pleanála has dismissed the appeal by the Merrion Road Residents' Association against Dublin City Council granting planning permission to the Office of the Ambassador of India to change the use of 69 Merrion Road an embassy and extend the property.
In approving the move, the board rejected the recommendation of its own inspector to refuse planning permission.
Inspector Derek Daly said that if the application was permitted, the area will become overwhelmingly non-residential in relation to use.
“In the absence of a clear policy defining locations for an embassy I consider the encroachment into areas with a strong residential presence is not appropriate and if permitted would represent a significant impact on the residential amenity of the area,” he said.
Recommending that planning permission be refused, Mr Daly said the scale of the proposal would result in a diminution of the character of the residential conservation area.
Echoing the views of local objectors, Mr Daly said that due to the proposal’s design, building depth and scale, it would be dominant in the context of neighbouring sites and properties, adversely impacting on the residential amenities of these properties.
Mr Daly’s recommendation states: “The proposed development would therefore contravene the stated Zoning Objective Z2 of the area “to protect and/or improve the amenities of residential conservation areas” and would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.”
However, the board ruled in deciding not to accept the inspector’s recommendation, it found that the intensity of use would be acceptable at this location.
The board stated that it was satisfied that concerns in relation to design and scale had been addressed by revised proposals while a further concern in relation to the driveway could be addressed by condition.
The current Indian embassy is located at Leeson Park in D4 and the Ambassador, Smt. Radhika Lol Lokesh lodged her plans in September 2013 with architect for the scheme, Brian Brennan stating that "embassy use at No 69 Merrion Rd represents a prestige cultural use for the residential conservation area and improves and protects its living dynamic street character".
Her excellency, Smt. Radhika Lol Lokesh is to remain at the Indian ambassador’s residence in Foxrock.
However, the application for the new embassy provoked a wave of opposition from residents’ associations representing some of the most prestigious addresses in the country.
Opposing the plan along with the Merrion Rd Residents' Association, residents' groups representing Ailesbury Rd, Shrewsbury Rd and Upper Leeson area also lodged objections. In response to concerns expressed by residents and Dublin City Council, the Ambassador reduced the scale of the extension. In its objection, the Shrewsbury Rd Residential and Environmental Protection Association stated that "a proposal of this magnitude would severely damage the area. This stretch of road is purely residential and to put what appears to be a consulate office in its midst not only reduces the quality of living for current residents but may set a dangerous precedent which would ultimately and in time destroy the very fabric of family living".
The association's chairman, Michael Maughan said that an additional concern "is the possibility of protest gatherings converging on the property in response to matters happening back home".
In its objection, the Upper Leeson Street Area Residents Association told the city council that it had 'grave concerns' over the plan.
On behalf of the Association, Constance Dowling stated that the recent proliferation of embassy offices "is of real concern as it threatens to change the character of the area by reducing the stock of family homes and by bringing to a settled residential area the unwelcome trappings of embassy offices such as security apparatus; fortress-like barricades and railings; noisy flags and flagpoles in front gardens; excess vehicular and pedestrian traffic and security concerns associated with protests outside these offices".