Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Union HQ redevelopment bid refused

Liberty Hall, the 17-storey headquarters of the trade union on Eden Quay overlooks the River Liffey

An ambitious plan for a 22-storey building to replace Siptu's iconic Liberty Hall headquarters has been refused.

An Bord Pleanala ruled the scale and height of the development would dominate Dublin's skyline, be visually intrusive, seriously injure the character of the historic city and detract from the nearby Custom House. It also feared the development would set an undesirable precedent for similar builds in the vicinity.

The Siptu trade union said it was deeply disappointed by the decision, which had been previously approved by Dublin City Council with conditions.

Joe O'Flynn, general secretary, said the union, its architects and professional advisers had put five years of hard work into the project, including an enormous amount of consultation with council chiefs, members and key stakeholders.

"Given that the city council saw fit earlier this year to grant us planning permission for the redevelopment of Liberty Hall we are extremely disappointed that this decision has now been overturned by An Bord Pleanala," said Mr O'Flynn.

The plans included demolishing Liberty Hall, the 17-storey headquarters of the trade union on Eden Quay which overlooks the River Liffey. It was Dublin's first skyscraper when completed in 1965.

The proposed new eco-friendly building would have featured a theatre, a sky deck with panoramic views of the capital and a heritage centre focusing on the country's labour movement. Siptu has claimed its construction would have also created up to 200 jobs.

However, the planning appeals board unanimously refused permission. An Bord Pleanala ruled: "It is considered that the site of Liberty Hall is of national historic and social significance and is located at a prominent and sensitive location fronting onto the River Liffey, within the historic city core of Dublin and adjacent to the Custom House, a protected structure of primary importance in the state."

An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, called for an independent regulator to be appointed to investigate the planning function of Dublin City Council. Charles Stanley-Smith, communications officer and former chair of the trust, said An Bord Pleanala's refusal of the Liberty Hall application was on the same grounds as that of the Mater site proposal for the National Children's Hospital earlier this year.

"This decision again raises the wider question as to why Dublin City Council is found to have once again breached its own development plan and national policy and the lack of an independent investigation thereof," said Mr Stanley-Smith. "It is a waste of time and scarce resources for major applications to be processed through the planning system, if they are then overturned because they are found to be in breach of local and national policy."

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