Sean Dunne’s plans for the former Berkeley Court and Jury’s site have been described as bold and imaginative – and indeed they are. Perhaps perfectly designed for a nice new site – in Dubai.
However Ballsbridge is not Dubai nor was it recommended for high rise development in the independent study commissioned on this issue by the City Council only two years ago.
As the proposal goes before An Bord Plenála this week, it’s time to take a look again at the plans.
Ballsbridge is not Dubai. Nor is Ballsbridge a Greenfield site. It is a place where people live. It is where families have grown up, scattered and returned. It has a sense of community. It has a history, a heritage and a genuine sense of place. It has already been damaged immeasurably by poor planning and an avalanche of office and other commercial development. It is a place I have the honour to represent on the City Council and is in an area I grew up in and still live. With the recent release of large tracts of land for development the opportunity and obligation to ensure good quality planning now is paramount.
I do not doubt the quality of the design, submitted by Mr Dunne and his company, Mountbrook Homes, I have acknowledged this before. I welcome too the amount of publicly accessible open space proposed and the general permeability of the site outlined in the plans. The commitment, without pressure, to the 20% Social and Affordable Housing, to be provided within the general Dublin South East area, given by Mr Dunne is also positive and I welcomed the range of community, arts and civic elements of the proposal.
So what is so wrong with the plans? Clearly the proposal to have a thirty-seven storey tower has received significant media attention and would be completely out of character with the area. The fifteen storey development near the Shelbourne Road side has received less attention. Both are inconsistent with the City Development Plan and both would tower over the local area and people’s homes. The Mountbrook plans provide for a huge increase in commercial and retail activity, again inconsistent with the City Development Plan so painstakingly put together only three years ago. The intensity of the proposed development is apparently necessary because of the huge price paid for the land. If this becomes the yardstick for planning decisions we can say goodbye to any serious planning controls and a continuation of the spiralling house prices that have already driven so many from the area. It is time to say stop.
Since first seeing these plans I have committed myself to working with the local community, the planners and the Developer to see if progress can be made. In my view that is a responsible PRO DUBLIN stand. I do hope that progress can be made. Good quality planning is good for Dublin and good for the people of Dublin.