Here is a picture of Trinity College, Dublin. Now imagine it overlooked by a 21-storey tower block. But wait; in this instance you won’t need to use your imagination because last week Ireland’s planning authority, An Bord Pleanála approved just such a scheme for a site just outside the walls of the college.
The development, if such it must be called, was originally intended to be 11-storeys of office space, but the company responsible, Marlet Property Group (company slogan ‘Developing City-Shaping Landmarks’ – really?) then applied to add a further ten floors accommodating build-to-rent apartments. Astonishingly, both Dublin City Council and now An Bord Pleanála rolled over and gave their blessing to the project. In doing so, they demonstrated a woeful disregard for the character of Dublin’s historic core: it is inconceivable that such a scheme would be permitted in other capitals such as Paris or Vienna or Rome where the distinctive attributes of an ancient city centre are rightly cherished and protected. Dublin, on the other hand, seems resolutely set on the same path it has followed since the middle of the last century; to obliterate all trace of individuality and to become a poor imitation of some middle-ranking American city.
In reaching this, and other recent decisions, the current members of An Bord Pleanála appear to possess no sense of history, no sense of place, no sense of proportion. The building is devoid of architectural merit, its only distinguishing feature being size: it is an over-scaled monument to corporate blandness. There are sites further down river where plenty of similar blocks have been constructed in recent decades and where such a development would find a natural home. But parking it here, seemingly at random, with no understanding of context, no evidence of coherent planning for the area, no acknowledgement that this is Dublin rather than downtown Dumpsville, and with a flagrant disregard for the fact that it is barely 200 metres away from Trinity College: this just looks wilful. Both Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála are permitting private developers to decide the future shape and character of Ireland’s capital. It makes no sense, and those responsible display no sense.
Footnote: Last Monday Dublin City Councillors voted to retain a 15% cut in the Local Property Tax, even though the authority is likely to suffer a €39 million deficit this year. By reaching this decision, they have rendered themselves still more impotent when it comes to decision-making about how the capital will evolve in the years ahead, thereby transferring still greater control in this matter to unelected, and increasingly non-resident, corporations. Remember Marlet Property Group’s company slogan ‘Developing City-Shaping Landmarks’. That tells you who’s in charge here. Just bear it in mind next time you hear a councillor proclaim how much he/she loves Dublin…
*A reader has suggested that I provide relevant contact details for Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála, so that some of you can express your feelings on this matter to them directly.
They can be reached as follows:
Dublin City Council Planning Department firstname.lastname@example.org
An Bord Pleanála email@example.com.