Residents block new hotel in Temple Bar over superpub fears

An Bord Pleanála upholds appeal against Dublin City Council decision

Temple Bar square in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day, much quieter than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Temple Bar square in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day, much quieter than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Residents of Temple Bar in Dublin have blocked the development of a new boutique hotel in the city’s tourist district which they feared would lead to the creation of another superpub in the area.

An Bord Pleanála has upheld an appeal by the Temple Bar Residents group against the decision of Dublin City Council to grant planning permission for a 12-bedroom hotel at the corner of Merchant’s Arch and Temple Bar Square.

The project was promoted by businesswoman, Sandra Doone, whose husband, Thomas, owns the adjoining Merchant’s Arch pub.

The development would have required the demolition of an existing two storey building, which houses the Irish Pub Shop and several other small commercial units, and the construction of a five-storey building with a retail unit on the ground floor and basement with the hotel on the four upper floors.

However, An Bord Pleanála ruled that the proposed development on grounds of its height relative to surrounding buildings would constitute overdevelopment of the site.

‘Out of character’

The board concluded it would be “out of character with the pattern of development in the vicinity” and would not integrate well into Temple Bar Square because of its height.

“The subject plot is insufficiently wide to accommodate a building greater than three storeys,” the board said.

It said the site was not a traditional corner plot where a higher building could create a landmark feature, while the proposed design would have created a vista from the Central Bank down Crown Alley which would be “visually discordant”.

In addition, the board said the plans for a single large retail unit at ground floor level to replace a number of smaller shops on Merchant’s Arch would have a detrimental impact on the vibrancy of the area due to the loss of small-scale commercial units which give Temple Bar its character.

Ms Doone had claimed the existing, under-utilised building was in poor condition and in need of significant refurbishment, while the proposed hotel would “contribute positively to Temple Bar Square and surrounding environment of the city”.

She said a use for the building had to be found after An Bord Pleanála had refused planning permission in 2018 for plans which would have made its first floor an extension of the Merchant’s Arch pub.

Ms Doone claimed she should be commended rather than vilified for opting for a retail use.

However, Temple Bar Residents said the proposed development was a substitute for the previous attempt to extend the Merchant’s Arch pub which it claimed would have created a “superpub”.

The group said the contention by Ms Noone that the existing building had no architectural merit, given its links to the other application, was “incredible” and “glib”.

The group’s chairman, Frank McDonald, claimed the project was “a Trojan horse for the establishment in time of a fully licensed restaurant” which was only one step away from converting the entire area into a pub.

He also criticised Dublin City Council for failing to recognise Merchant’s Arch’s rich urban history and the “souk of sorts” in the laneway.

‘Like a sore thumb’

Mr McDonald, a former Irish Times environment editor, said the proposed new building would “stick out like a sore thumb” in Temple Bar Square.

Residents from the nearby Crampton Buildings claimed the proposed taller structure would block the sunlight to their windows and balconies as well as causing serious disruption during the construction phase.

An Taisce also opposed the proposed development claiming the demolition of the building could not be justified, while the area was already saturated with guest accommodation.

The heritage group said allowing the hotel would create a strong impetus to look for a licensed use of the building again in the future when there was already an overconcentration of pubs in Temple Bar.

An inspector with An Bord Pleanála said the streetscape of the lane would be “significantly negatively changed” by the proposed development which was “strikingly at odds” with other buildings in the vicinity.