herald

Friday 20 April 2018

Council bids to scrap Georgian houses policy

CITY chiefs are seeking to do away with an obligation to restore Georgian facades controversially torn down nearly 50 years ago.

A large number of historic townhouses were demolished in 1965 to facilitate the current ESB headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street Lower, breaking the city's 'Georgian Mile' in the process.

The current City Development Plan has as one of its objectives the reinstatement of the facades.

But Dublin City Council has proposed removing this clause and replacing it with an obligation merely to "respect and enhance" the character of the Georgian streetscape.

Onerous

It comes after the ESB revealed plans to redevelop its Dublin HQ, replacing it with a landmark-type building which would be energy efficient. Restoring the Georgian facade would be an onerous task and could impede the revamp.

Now, the council has recommended deleting the obligation in favour of an objective to promote a building of "exceptional urban design".

Any new complex should complement the Georgian streetscape in "the rhythm of windows and doors", the "proportion and scale of the ground-floor storey to the upper storeys" and the "quality and craft of material and finishes", the proposed new clause states.

The altered policy will have to be agreed by councillors.

In a report, city official Jim Keogan notes the current ESB HQ was built to a design by Stephenson, Gibney & Associates in the late 1960s, following a grant of permission in 1964 and the demolition of the original 18th century townhouses in 1965. The same architecture firm went on to construct the much-maligned Central Bank building on Dame Street.

"The ESB have indicated that their current offices are no longer fit for purpose and that they require new office accommodation," Mr Keogan states.

"It is essential that all new buildings in the Georgian core are designed both to resonate successfully with the iconic character of the 18th century streets and squares which make up the area," he adds.

Rigid

The existing policy to promote the reinstatement of the Georgian facade of the 16 original houses is "considered to be excessively rigid", he says.

"The reinstatement of facades is not generally regarded as good urban design practice, as it undermines the accepted principle that form should relate to function and also diminishes the integrity of the original buildings," he adds.

The recommendation is to come before councillors at the local authority's south east area committee.

The ESB's planned new building would double existing capacity and accommodate an additional 1,400 workspaces.

Fianna Fail councillor Jim O'Callaghan has already accused the company of being "disrespectful" by bringing forward a plan that was contrary to the agreed policy.

comurphy@herald.ie

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