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extension blocked

An Taisce object to €98 million emergency Covid-19 extension block for Mater hospital

The Mater said the new emergency wing ‘will greatly enhance the hospital’s ICU capacity’

AN TAISCE IS objecting to €89 million plans by the Mater Hospital in Dublin to construct an ‘emergency’ nine-storey 98-bed Covid-19 extension block.

The Mater Hospital has lodged the plans to address what it calls “the ongoing emergency” with the development of the new purpose-built facility.

Outlining the need for the development, planning consultants for the Mater state that the hospital has experienced intense pressure during both waves of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 and early 2021.

The planning consultants state that “this has caused considerable dislocation of hospital services, with treatment and medical procedures postponed for unacceptably long periods on occasion”.

They state that at the height of previous waves of the Covid pandemic, “the Mater has coped only with great difficulty, at one stage accommodating large numbers of Covid patients across the institute, including ICU”.

A spokeswoman for the Mater Hospital said today: “Covid 19 remains a national health concern and the new facilities will significantly contribute to the State’s response to this or any future pandemic. It is hoped that the first beds will be operational by end of Q1/start of Q2 2022.”

She stated 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”.

She said: “All rooms will be single rooms to protect against the spread of disease.”

Planning consultants for the Mater state that the facility “has been designed to a high standard to integrate with the existing hospital and streetscape”.

However in a submission lodged with the city council, An Taisce’s Dublin City Planning Officer Kevin Duff argues that the proposed development “should be refused permission or significantly revised in its design and scale”.

In a separate submission, the Irish Georgian Society has stated that it has “considerable reservations about this planning application”.

The Society argues that the scheme’s overbearing scale will dominate Eccles Street.

In the An Taisce submission lodged with the Council, Duff says that “there are heritage constraints at this location within one of Georgian Dublin’s primary streetscapes/vistas which are too great and which make it fundamentally unsuitable for the development as currently proposed”.

Duff argues that the proposal at present “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”.

He states that An Taisce urges that “the important cultural heritage of the site be protected by the amending or refusing of the proposed development”.

Duff further states that the application site lies within the formally planned streets of the north Georgian core of Dublin in the vicinity of the landmark St George’s Church.

The Mater commenced work on the project under emergency legislation without the need to seek planning permission and had commenced enabling works.

A spokeswoman for the Mater Hospital stated: “The Mater Hospital was given the go-ahead to build a new emergency wing with increased ICU capacity and approximately 98 beds as Ireland faced a third wave of Covid 19 in December 2020. The development was included in the HSE’s Service Plan 2021 as part of the State’s response to the pandemic and the critical need to increase intensive care infrastructure”.

Defending An Taisce’s right to object on today, Duff said: “In the interests of democracy every project, including health infrastructure, should be subject to planning consideration including the public making its views known.”

Duff added: “The population has been largely vaccinated against Covid so this Mater extension is clearly a longer-term building, so it’s not what the legislation was for.”

In the An Taisce submission, Duff states that the application site is in an immensely important location facing onto Eccles Street, on part of a site where original Georgian houses were controversially demolished in the 1980s.

Duff states that the plans “shows an anonymous, business type development which does not even hold the Georgian height of Eccles Street but sails several storeys above it.”

A decision is due on the application later this month.

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