Thanks to Tom Cosgrave for the prompt.
Yep the planning approval for the Clarence gets my goat. Actually, the extra couple of floors that the Clarence got fifteen years ago annoyed me as well. Blame for that one can be laid at the door of Gay McCarron who was Dublin City Planning Officer at the time. One of the principle objections back then was that it would open the door to the future demolition of the four story buildings next door, and that's exactly what is happening.
One of the worst aspects of the current scheme is the emphasis on facade retention. It is not dissimilar to practicing taxidermy on a beautiful old friend while their heart is still beating. The Clarence is an attractive early 1930s building, and the buildings to the east are much older. They will all be subsumed into the scheme but are worthy of retention in their entirety. I didn't like the way the members of the City of Dublin Workingmen's Club which used to be located beside the Clarence were decanted into a new building off Capel Street. I also don't like the arguments that you hear time and time again about how hotels don't stack up commercially unless they double their number of bedrooms. Incidentally the Inspector felt that the building which housed the club was of regional importance on page 44 of his report.
I've argued this out with Laura Magahy when she was MD of Temple Bar Properties years ago, but the area's essential quality used to be its small scale-character, and time and again that was altered by planning decisions made by Temple Bar Properties, Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála. If Dublin does need a five star hotel with a flying saucer on top then maybe Docklands is the place for it, not Temple Bar.
The precedent of allowing facade retention of listed buildings (Protected Structures) is a dangerous one, and could open the floodgates for second-rate planning applications all over the country. The decision may refer to this as a "bespoke building of design excellence", but in my mind its open season . If you can't hold on to Protected Structure in a Conservation Area, then who knows where it will end? It's also worrying (and perhaps unprecedented?) that the Board's decision seems to diverge from the conservation advice given by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
I'm also annoyed by the way the Boys went down the 'Starchitecture' route of choosing Norman Foster's firm for the job. It shows the same lack of design confidence that many cities (including Dublin) display when they opt for a Calatrava bridge. If Dublin City Council really cared that much about design they wouldn't allow replica Victorian litter bins (Did the Victorians use litter bins on their streets?) to be placed blocking the lighting on the south side of the James Joyce Bridge on the Quays. Instead of choosing architects like Kevin Roche, Norman Foster or Santiago Calatrava for projects in Dublin twenty or forty years after they've emerged on the world stage we should be choosing today's rising stars for these projects.