No Sense

Here is a picture of Christchurch, Oxford. Now imagine it overlooked by a 21-storey tower block.

Here is a picture of King’s College, Cambridge. Now imagine it overlooked by a 21-storey tower block.

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
An Bord Pleanála


31 comments on “No Sense

  1. wildninja says:

    Good heavens, this sounds like the greater Seattle area, where it’s a literal fight to preserve historic structures as developers come in with their grand plans to totally redefine a neighborhood by building towering, bland boxes… and call it Progress.

  2. Tim Guilbride says:

    Crazy, at a time when people are re-thinking office use, and life in city centres generally. If you start a petition, put my name on it!

  3. Mark Smith says:

    Mine too
    Very sad prospect

  4. How can we fight this? I’m in!

  5. upsew says:

    o no – I passed that site 2 months ago while strolling around dublin and still wonder why it seems to be the norm to knock down buldings and build again (which would carry a much larger carbon footprint.) I hadnt realised a building of that size was going in…..unbelievable

  6. Martin says:

    Ah, yes – or even worse, you could be a Mancunian! Towers higher than 21 stories built on the bones of our red brick cotton warehouses ( that couldn’t be converted, no – they didn’t have enough height so wouldn’t have given Chinese/Russian developers/investors their proper outlandish return.
    And it’s true, here also, local councillors and footballer investors (you know who they are) wrap themselves in the flag/play the honest broker/ tattoo the industrious Bee – it was always so, but just not the speed of change and the height arrogance!

  7. John Foster says:

    As always, for an explanation of this apparent lunacy, follow the money. Some one, or some people, are set to gain from the granting of permission for this desecration.

  8. Vincent Delany says:

    The planners are totally inconsistent. TheDevelopment plan encourages tall buildings further down the river near the new central bank. The same height as liberty hall might have been appropriate. The developers of George’s Quay had to jump through endless hoops due to their proximity to The Custom House. will this building have the same relationship to the Custom House another historically important site?

  9. elmozi says:

    How awful. How sad. How infuriating. Did this slide through the process or was there much of a fight?

  10. Clive Bowley says:

    It sounds to me like there is corruption involved here. Why else would they make such a stupid decision?

  11. Deborah Sena says:

    So much to comment on here, but first appreciate you polite restraint in calling the proposed structure ‘without architectural merit’- the residiential addition truly looks like an afterthought.. Per your pics for comparison, here is what it could look like: Also at issue here is the continued concentration of population in Dublin, which threatens your other great cities’ (and their architecture) existence. I do need to comment that I find your reference to ‘middling American city’ not appreciated and unnecessary. Please be reminded that your audience is not just Irish.

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I’m sorry you do not appreciate my comparison with middle-ranking American cities: I have absolutely nothing against such places, since I spend a great deal of time in them and always enjoy my visits to them. My point is that they are American, with an American character, which deserves to be celebrated. Dublin is Irish, and ought to maintain – and celebrate – its own distinct character. Instead, the relevant authorities seem determined to replace the characteristics of what makes Dublin different, and to replace them with the characteristics of somewhere else….

      • Deborah Sena says:

        I do understand your comment on keeping Dublin Irish, but unfortunately we are on a global ‘modern’ craze to make everything look the same (similar to the International look of the 60’s). Beach side retreats can no longer be ‘beachy’ in decor, etc. Houses in Ecuador (admittedly mostly interior) looks like something in NYC! Why bother to travel if everything looks the same? Since tourism is such a big part of the economy, that should be the ‘this will lose $$’ for Dublin argument.

  12. David Zeiler says:

    Dear Robert, long time fan of yours. Could you provide an address for both of these organizations and perhaps send out a plea for both your Irish and your American readers to send their thoughts to these “knuckleheads?” I follow you both on the internet and on Instagram, so perhaps an overlapping request on both platforms? It may be too little, too late, but I’m sure your loyal followers would like to voice their displeasure to the powers that be.
    Thanks for all you do!

  13. Planning stupidity on an epic scale. Great piece, Robert.

  14. Emma Richey says:

    Their stupidity is SO infuriating. If only authorities in Dublin would stand up to developers but I think they are probably all in each others pockets.

  15. Emma Richey says:

    I have emailed Dublin City Council and they have requested a planning number. Does anyone have this information? Many thanks

    • Both An Taisce and the Irish Georgian Society objected to the scheme, so I am sure either of them should be able to provide you with relevant details (since DCC’s own officials are apparently incapable of doing such an elementary job…)

      • john daly says:

        There is no planning in Dublin City. All over the city …..centre and suburbs developers are running riot …destroying the city in every way . DCC and more notably ABP are no longer performing their public duties. The developers that contributed do much to the financial distruction of our country a few short years ago are now in charge. Not even ONE member of Dail Eireann protests at this.rape of Anna Livia. All facilitated by a Government Development plan that is designed to meet the wishes of developers and the hedge funds and investment funds that have no interest in our City other than to use it to.satisfy their own greed.
        Trinity College, St Anne’s Park. Our suburban villages…..drown them all in a sea of concrete and glass .

  16. Brian Gormley says:

    An Bord Pleanála reference is 306335.
    Dublin City Council references among others: 2583/20, 4170/19, etc.
    Belated congratulations Robert on your eighth anniversary!

  17. Joseph Woods says:

    Appalling, shabby and gombeen and they’ll have their way and prosper ….

  18. Emma Richey says:

    Thank you all for your replies and Brian for the Planning numbers. I had emailed IGS but not heard back yet, so I can now get down to my next email. Does anyone have any contacts amongst the newspapers? A bit of public naming and shaming wouldn’t go amiss.

  19. Emma Richey says:

    I received an email from DCC today saying that there is currently an appeal going on with An Bord Pleanala and therefore a final decision has not yet been made.

  20. john logan says:

    You are certainly right to question the use of the word ‘development’. The term gained its present significance soon after the passing of the 1963 planning act when the new ‘rational’ planning and development was characterised as an empowering public good. That may have been the intention of those who brought the act into being, but the term was soon appropriated by builders and investors who needed to drop the terms ‘speculation’ and ‘speculative’ that had been usual up to then. As schemes became riskier and adverse outcomes multiplied, it became imperative that speculators should characterised themselves as ‘developers’ whose projects would bring benefits to all. We fell for it.

    May I suggest that when we read of a new ‘development’ being endorsed as a force for good and a guaranteed enhancer of the public realm, that we replace it with ‘speculation’ instead?

    We will then get closer to the truth of the matter and more alert to the possibility of long-term negative consequences. Any such scheme is, by definition, a speculation, a gamble, one that is planned to bring riches to those who invest but never, ever to enhance the lives of those who have to live with any adverse consequence. Promises of positive social and public benefit – to those displaced, to those forced to move out of a glittering new ‘quarter’, to those whose public realm is blighted for ever, to those who may have to underpin a ‘bail-out’ – are usually as vapid as the slickly-produced promotional clip heralding the good news.

  21. Allan Ramsay says:

    COVID may yet kill it.

  22. Denise Olin says:

    Marlet Property Group an – DESTROYING CITY LANDMARKS (more appropriate slogan)
    At an IBEC conference in 2018, the CEO of Bank of Ireland put her view forward!
    Bank of Ireland’s chief executive has told a meeting of business leaders that the country must “build up” with taller apartment blocks in Dublin and other cities to solve the housing crisis. “We need to revisit in Ireland how we plan our housing, how we zone and how we build,” said Francesca McDonagh (The former HSBC banker) addressing an IBEC conference in the Convention Centre Dublin. “We need to build up.”. She said housing was the issue that “absolutely dominated” the recent general election, and that to solve it, Irish building needs to “speed up and look up”.

    Translation – it would suit the money lenders and vultures if you ruin your city by building plenty of tower blocks. Since when is a bank CEO employed a s a city planner?. She is not a councillor or
    elected representative of the people. Repopulate dying villages and towns. Give grants to young Irish to return. There has been a growth of young couples opting out of the expensive city rat race and returning to rural Ireland. Since the lockdown many have realised the value of what life outside the city has to offer.. Is there petition to sign ton send to DCC.
    Link to page below:

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