RTÉ planning inquiry begins

 

A planning inquiry has opened into RTÉ’s €350 million Project 2025, which involves the gradual replacement of most of its landmark radio, television, production and broadcasting facilities at Montrose, in Donnybrook, Dublin.

The State-owned broadcaster is seeking permission for the gradual consolidation of all of its activities across television, radio and online as well as in publishing and the arts, into a new purpose built complex on seven hectares (17 acres) at the northern end of its 13 hectare (32 acre) site.

RTÉ director general Cathal Goan said existing buildings, which include the award winning television centre, housed outdated analogue equipment and could not be reengineered or adapted for the digital age.

He told the planning hearing in Stillorgan the national broadcaster held “a unique place in Irish life” commanding “trust and special loyalty”. But he said the broadcaster can no longer “reengineer or add to its existing facilities on site”.

To cater for the digital age RTÉ had spent the last eight years addressing the issues posed by redevelopment for itself and its neighbours and had come up with Project 25; the redevelopment designed by architects Scott Tallon Walker, who designed the original television centre on site.

The television centre, one of the oldest buildings on the Montrose site, will not be demolished, under the plans. However, the Radio Centre, library and the multi-storey car park will be knocked down, along with the Fair City set.

In a presentation to the planning hearing Peter Dudley of Scott Tallon Walker said it had acquired additional lands, new buildings and applied new master plans to the site as needs arose, since the television centre was built in the early 1960s.

New master plans were completed in the 1970s with the development of the radio station at the northern end of the site, and in the 1990s with the newer buildings as they now appear.

The authority said the latest master plan, Project 2025, should be seen as “an architectural continuum” and it would be “wrong to suggest the existing buildings be frozen in time”. Around the world different television stations had concluded existing buildings were not suitable for the new digital age, he said.

The new complex would see a range of buildings developed over the next 10 to 15 years and varying in height from 28.5 metres at the front of the site facing the N11. The buildings would include an atrium rising to 36 metres at its apex, but the buildings would be “stepped down” towards the back of the site descending to 10.7 metres facing local housing.

Phase one of the development would see the demolition of the multi storey car park and the construction of three new high-definition digital TV studios, a new “young people’s” TV studio and associated back up facilities.

Phase two would involve further TV studios and back up facilities; phase three would involve the first section of a production and administration building, a news room, radio studios, offices, orchestra studio, a basement car park and a canteen.

Phase four would include the atrium, main entrance, a public plaza, and the removal of the existing set storage building, the existing library/sound stage and radio centre. Phase five includes further production areas, rehearsal, and performance spaces and storage spaces.

The N11 from Donnybrook to Montrose would also be revamped to become a "tree-lined avenue” according to the master plan.

However, while Mr Goan told the inquiry this afternoon RTÉ could not afford to forgo the redevelopment, objections have been lodged by financier Dermot Desmond, the German Ambassador and other local residents. An Taisce has also appealed. The appellants are expected to be heard tomorrow afternoon.