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Planning battle after tenant told he needs permission for Smithfield's Horseboy mural

The case has been referred to An Bord Pleanála, with the owner seeking to have the mural removed.

Image: Google Street View

AN BORD PLEANÁLA is set to rule on the case of a well-known mural in the Smithfield area, after Dublin City Council found that it needs planning permission to remain in place.

The Horseboy mural is located just off Church Street in Dublin 7 and a warning letter had previously been issued in respect of it by the council.

The tenant at the house which has the mural on the side of it made an application to the council in June that the painting should be considered “exempted development” and allowed to remain. 

A previous arrangement between the council and the tenant had designated it as a “exempted development”. This was under a legal provision that stated that development carried out “on behalf of, or jointly or in partnership with” a local authority could be exempted from requiring permission.

The conditions attached to that agreement outlined it would only apply for a period of 12 months, ending 1 April 2018, and that the applicant would have to commit to removing the artwork at the end of that permission.

A submission was then made by the owner – as opposed to the tenant – of the property on Church Street.

“The owner of the property raises objection to the painting which has been put in place without his permission and outlines that he has requested the applicant to remove the painting on a number of occasions,” council documents said.

The tenant, described as a long-term resident of the property, then made an application to Dublin City Council.

There were three reasons given by the tenant as to why the mural should be considered exempted development, and therefore allowed to remain.

  • Firstly, it was said the mural works were carried out for the maintenance and improvement of the property. Prior to that, the wall had been subject to graffiti.
  • The works “do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure/property”.
  • As the mural is on the side of the property on Stirrup Lane, the Church Street-facing facade is unaffected by the mural painting.

Dublin City Council, however, found that the mural does require planning permission, and therefore it cannot be considered exempt under existing laws. 

The need for planning permission for murals has been a thorn in the side of efforts to develop street art in Dublin in recent years.

In late-2017, a mural of the musician Stormzy was removed in Smithfield with Dublin City Council citing its lack of planning permission. Artists Subset said that, as a startup, it would have been very costly and time consuming to engage in the planning process.

The decision was made in the Horseboy mural case on 12 July but was then referred to An Bord Pleanála on 1 August.

The case is due to be decided by 4 December. The mural is set to remain in place pending that decision. 

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council told TheJournal.ie that it couldn’t comment on cases that were ongoing. 

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Sean Murray

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