Submission to an Bord Pleanála re Baily Court / Edros application

Strategic Housing Development Section
An Bord Pleanála
64 Marlborough St.
Dublin D01 V902

Re: Case reference: PL06F.300879

Planning Application Reference
300879-18: Former Baily Court Hotel, Main Street and lands located
south of the Martello Tower on Balscadden Road, Howth, Co. Dublin
(Edros site)

A chairde,

I refer to the above development and would like to make the following observations:

1. SHD process is not compliant with the Aarhus Convention

The decision-making process in the Strategic Housing Development
category is contrary to the Aarhus Convention, in particular as it
fails to meet the requirement of Article 6(4) to “provide for early
public participation, when all options are open and effective public
participation can take place.”

​The​ process established for Strategic Housing Developments ends up,
as in this instance, pre-determining and pre-deciding choices and
decisions about many elements of the development before any public
participation happens. That this is so is evident from the record in
the planning file of pre-application discussions with both Fingal
County Council and An Bord Pleanála. The fact that there is no appeal
from this decision makes this failing considerably more significant
from the point of view of the public’s ability to have an impact on
the final decision and the quality of the decision-making process.

2. Need for Environmental Impact Assessment and oral hearing

The development is in an important, difficult and complex site from a
range of perspectives. It is in an important location in a heritage
town, beside a national monument (the Martello Tower on the site of
the Norman castle, a location chosen for its natural visual
prominence), partly within an Architectural Conservation Area, on a
steep sand ridge with a history of instability and landslides, in one
of the busiest tourism destinations in Dublin, with difficult
construction access. Given the potential for negative consequences and
the complexity of the interaction of the above factors, it should be
subject to Environmental Impact Assessment.

Local residents adjacent to the site, and the wider community, have
profound and valid concerns as to the risks the proposed excavation,
construction, and associated truck movements could pose to
neighbouring buildings and the public road. The application documents
do not adequately address these risks. In these circumstances,  there
should be a public oral hearing into the proposal.  Additionally the
Board should ensure that it deploys the relevant expertise to address
this aspect of the proposed development.

3. Geology, hydrogeology, civil engineering and access

You will have received detailed evidence in other submissions of the
history of landslides in the vicinity and the overall difficulty of
developing on the sandy ground. This causes great concern to local
residents, both those living immediately around the site and the rest
of us, given the threat to adjacent houses, to the adjacent road, and
to the Martello tower. It is vital that the Board ensures that the
proposed development can be built safely and will not interfere with
groundwater movement in a manner which would destabilise the sandy
ground on or off site.

The proposal to use Balscadden Road as a construction access is very
worrying. Balscadden Road is a busy pedestrian route, giving access to
the Howth Cliff Path looped walks, visited by over 250,000 walkers a
year. A visit to the Road will demonstrate its importance for
pedestrians. Sand regularly falls onto the road from Tower Hill. The
developer has stated that they propose 30 to 35 trucks a day for 6
months to remove the sand plus a few years of construction access
along Balscadden Road. This risks destabilising the road and Tower
Hill as well as the Asgard Apartments.

4. Visual and landscape impacts

The visual aspect of the development is a major concern. Subject to
the construction and ground stability problems mentioned above, it is
welcome that the development proposes to lower the ground level in
order to reduce the visual impact. I’m concerned that the
photomontages may not accurately reflect the visual impact of the
development and I would ask the Board to verify their accuracy. I have
asked the developer to put poles on site indicating the intended
building heights. If they have not yet done so when the Board’s
Inspector comes to read this, I recommend that the Board request that
this be done to enable it and the public to estimate the nature of the
likely visual impact.

The most concerning visual elements are the impact on the view from
Tower Hill, the impact on the context for the Martello Tower, and the
impact on the view for people walking on Balscadden Road.

5. Scaling back to meet Public Open Space requirements and reduce visual impact

The development is objectively oversized as it fails to provide
sufficient Public Open Space to meet the County Development Plan
requirements. Reductions in height or setting back of elements of the
proposed development in order to bring the accommodation in line with
the open space provision should occur at the locations above which
would reduce its visual impact.

6. New pedestrian street and opportunity for a view out to sea

The provision of a pedestrian street from Main Street to Balscadden
Road is a very welcome element of the proposal. This new street should
be aligned so that there is a view, even just a glimpse of the sea
down the new street from some point on Main Street. With the varying
heights on Main Street this must be possible if the correct analysis
is done to align the road accordingly.

7. Loss of Baily Court Hotel and development incompatible with
Architectural Conservation Area

The Baily Court Hotel, one of the oldest and most prominent buildings
in the Howth Architectural Conservation Area has been subject ​to a
decade of neglect and dereliction.  Permission is being sought to
demolish the building on the basis that it is no ​longer in good
condition and that it’s architectural heritage value has been
diminished. It would be bad public policy to reward dereliction by
approving this element of the application.

The building proposed to replace the hotel building makes no attempt
to fit into the Architectural Conservation Area. It presents a gable
end to the street, in a manner inconsistent with the street. The two
buildings on either side, more modern than most of the buildings, have
hipped roofs. It proposes to have asymmetrical windows, unlike almost
every building on the street, and is of an overbearing scale.

8. Layout of buildings at west end of new pedestrian street and Main Street

The proposed layout of buildings at Main St. is hard to understand. It
is proposed to put a new large building on the Baily Court Hotel site
with a pedestrian area behind it, cut off by the way the building juts
out. The layout in front of this building doesn’t prioritise the
pedestrian route up and down Main St. The way this new development
interacts with Main Street is a vital element of the design, which
really doesn’t seem to have been worked out at all. Even the
photomontage of this location differs significantly from the landscape
drawings (which is one of the factors giving rise to my concern
mentioned under 4. above.)

9. Mixed use development should include a hotel

In this area of high tourism demand which lost significant hotel
accommodation over the last decade, in a town centre zoning, the
development should include a hotel to replace the derelict hotel on
the site.

I hope the above is of benefit to the Board in considering this
application and that the local community and neighbours of the site
will have the opportunity to engage with this application at an oral
hearing.

Best regards,

Cllr. David Healy

+353 87 6178852
54, Páirc Éabhóra,
Beann Éadair,
Co. Bh.Á.C.

 

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