By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A £1.2 billion dockland development that planned to give Dublin a taste of a mini-Manhattan by the Liffey has been severely curtailed by the Planning Board.
The board turned down the skyscraper apartment and office blocks elements of the North Quay’s Spencer Dock development. It gave the go-ahead for a national conference and exhibition center that was the focal point.
The development involved up to 26 buildings, the highest 22 stories, being built in several phases. It included 3,000 apartments, two hotels, nine office buildings and 24 shops. They were to be built on 26 of the 52 acres, with the rest of the site left as open space.
"The proposed buildings, by reason of their height, design and massing, would result in excessive overshadowing, overlooking and loss of daylight, and would have an overbearing impact when viewed from the adjoining housing," the board decided.
During a planning hearing earlier this year, the consortium behind the development, which includes CIE, said it would be unable to go ahead with the center without the commercial backing of the full development.
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The center is expected to be operate at a loss and, under EU rules, no continuing government subvention is allowed.
There is already a £26 million grant from the EU for the center. Payment is contingent on work being finished by the end of 2002.
The Dublin Chamber of Commerce and tourism bodies have been campaigning for a conference center for the city for years, with claims that up to £30 million a year is being lost on visitor spending because there is no such facility
Spencer Dock Development Company chairman Dermod Dwyer said the group is still committed to the site and would be making a new planning application. He said SDDC will be consulting widely with residents.
Dwyer added that he was "thrilled" by the go-ahead for the conference center that had been designed by the renowned Irish-American architect Kevin Roche.
The award-winning Roche is one of the top architects in the U.S. and has won applause for having designed the Ford Foundation headquarters in Manhattan.
When SDDC proposed the national center, development tax breaks were available. Dwyer said SDDC would go ahead if the tax regime is replaced with some other form of incentive.
"If we can make the process work, we believe a new city quarter will be created in Spencer Dock," he said.
SDDC has already spent over £10 million on plans.
Area residents were jubilant over the Planning Board’s decision. They had opposed the plan saying they would rarely see sunshine if it went ahead and their community would be destroyed.
During this year’s month-long planning hearings, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was embroiled in controversy when he described the proposed development in a TV interview as a "monstrosity."
Spencer Dock is in his Dublin Central constituency.