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Mater Hospital in Dublin PA
Mater Hospital

Mater Hospital gets green light for nine-storey Covid expansion despite An Taisce objection

The hospital has said the development will increase its ICU capacity.

AN TAISCE HAS failed in its bid to prevent €89 million plans by the Mater Hospital in Dublin to construct a nine-storey extension block for Covid-19 emergency planning.

The hospital had lodged the plans last year to address what it termed “the ongoing emergency” with the development of the new purpose-built facility.

It will contain 98 beds spread across single rooms to prevent the spread of disease.

But the wider plans were objected to by heritage body An Taisce, which claimed the development showed a lack of regard for the Georgian era Eccles Street, with it contending that the quality of the hospital’s design is not fitting with the importance of the area. 

In its decision, An Bord Pleanála found that the development would be appropriately located and would have a “positive impact” on the character of Eccles Street and the north Georgian core of Dublin and would not detract from the setting of any protected structures there.

Planning inspector Stephen J. O’Sullivan noted that the hospital stated in its submissions that the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for hospitals to deal better with infectious disease, with the Mater’s current facilities remaining “under significant pressure” earlier this year during examination of the issue.

“Remedying this deficiency is a priority under national, regional and local planning policy,” he said, adding that the site is not zoned to conserve architectural heritage, but is instead zoned for uses including hospitals.

Planning consultants on behalf of the Mater previously said that the new emergency wing “will greatly enhance the hospital’s ICU capacity and provide specialist isolation rooms for the care of highly infectious patients”.

However in a submission lodged with the city council, An Taisce argued that the proposed development “should be refused permission or significantly revised in its design and scale”. 

In the An Taisce submission lodged previously with Dublin City Council, it argued that he proposal “undermines the whole basis of Georgian urban planning which is based on calm and ordered streets, common parapets, height to width ratios and coherent views and termination points”.

It said the application site is in an immensely important location facing onto Eccles Street and is part of a site where original Georgian houses were controversially demolished in the 1980s.

The Mater commenced work on the project under emergency legislation without the need to seek planning permission and had commenced enabling works, as Ireland faced a a third wave of Covid 19 in December 2020. 

In a separate submission, the Irish Georgian Society said it had “considerable reservations”, claiming that the project’s scale will dominate Eccles Street.

Taking this into account, O’Sullivan said the society’s call to reinstate the prior streetscape in the manner would not be doable.

Instead, the hospital will “enhance the visual presence” of the hospital on Eccles Street and would provide a new entrance to the hospital from the street.

“The proposed development would properly integrate into that streetscape. As such it would improve the setting of the protected structures across the road,” O’Sullivan added. 

A number of conditions were attached to the granting of the works, partly to protect street amenities during construction.

Welcoming the board’s decision, a spokesperson for the Mater said it will add “much needed capacity” to the hospital.

“The Mater Hospital proceeded with the construction of the new wing in December 2020 under emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the critical need to increase bed capacity and especially intensive care infrastructure nationally,” the spokesperson said.

“The delivery of this development in such a short time frame is a testament to the Mater Hospital’s dedicated staff who drove it in collaboration with HSE colleagues.”

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