High ambitions in the capital

 

Sir, – Far from threatening the city’s human scale, as Frank McDonald asserts (Opinion April 9th), the newly approved Tara Street building heralds a new era of sustainable development in Dublin.

The Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines introduced by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy are predicated on making the city more liveable for its citizens. The guidelines allow planning bodies to facilitate taller buildings, where appropriate.

Building upwards rather than outwards in the right locations will allow us to create offices for employment, deliver hotel rooms for tourists visiting the city (in the city), house workers closer to their jobs, reduce commute times and transport emissions and put a halt to unsustainable suburban sprawl.

In point of fact the guidelines, while they were referred to by An Bord Pleanála in its decision, were not necessary to approve the new building at Tara Street. One need only have regard to Dublin City Council’s George’s Quay Local Area Plan, re-endorsed by the Council and extended in 2017 for a further five years, which provides for a landmark building on the Tara Street site up to 22 storeys or 88 metres high. Further, the Dublin City Development Plan identifies George’s Quay as one of the few locations in the city suitable for buildings of 50 metres plus. Mr McDonald states the appeals board “has overridden Dublin City Council’s decision to turn down a scheme that its planners had firmly rejected”. In fact, the permission granted last Friday is fully compliant with, and simply delivers on, Dublin City Council planners’ own statutory plans governing the site which long predate the Minister’s guidelines.

The narrative here is not that a tall building has been approved – it is that a building in full compliance with Dublin City Council’s Local Area Plan was rejected – twice – by Dublin City Council.

Mr McDonald notes there will be no residential element to the scheme. This is entirely consistent with its zoning, a fact which Mr McDonald unhelpfully omits to state.

Moving beyond the Tara Street scheme and to the issue of heights more generally. There are few remaining sites in the city which are zoned or part zoned residential and are appropriate locations for higher buildings.

The Docklands, which is well served by public transport and situated at an appropriate distance from conservation areas and historic, Georgian Dublin is, undoubtedly, the optimum location to realise a bold vision for a 21st-century Dublin. It is imperative for both the city and, more importantly, its citizens that optimal use is made of this land. As Mr Murphy said in announcing the Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines last December: “We need to get more people living in the core of our towns and city centres”.

We have the opportunity now to do this, to create centres of employment, and to give rise to new and inspiring architecture that allows our city to compete not just on a European but on an international stage. One can only hope that, while respecting what Mr McDonald refers to as the city’s “human scale”, we do not constrain its ambition. – Yours, etc,

JAMES RONAN,

Senior Development

Manager,

Ronan Group Real Estate

T/A Tanat Limited,

Dublin 2.