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July 29, 2008

New thoughts on high-rises

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The decision by An Bord Pleanála to approve scaled-down plans by Arnotts for its ambitious “Northern Quarter” development brings into focus again the conflicting views on plans for tall buildings in Dublin. On the one side, we have property developers with vaulting visions, gung-ho architects with notions of putting their names on landmarks and the city council management’s vision of a high-rise future in its draft policy document, Maximising the City’s Potential: A Strategy for Intensification and Height. On the other, we have a raft of decisions by the appeals board rejecting, or substantially reducing, random high-rise building proposals, together with an increasingly interventionist stance by the Department of the Environment’s heritage division and a sceptical, even antagonistic, public apparently incapable of being persuaded that Dublin needs Manhattan-like clusters of tall buildings. An Bord Pleanála has been marking the planners’ cards on a fairly consistent basis over the past few years, citing all sorts of reasons for overturning the decisions they have made. But the main reason usually relates to the absence of any planning framework under which high-rise proposals could be justified, including the 16-storey tower initially proposed by Arnotts. The department’s heritage division, after a long period of enforced silence under previous ministers, seems to have been given more leeway by John Gormley to intervene in the planning arena. It characterised developer Seán Dunne’s scheme for the Jurys-Berkeley Court site in Dublin’s Ballsbridge as “excessively high”.

The Irish Times

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