AKC News // Concern at scale of plans for city centre Cork site

Source: Irish Times
Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent

Big development plans for Grand Parade in Cork, which include a new city library twice the size of the present one, have run into trouble, with concerns expressed about overground and underground archaeology, including the old city wall.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and An Taisce have both lodged appeals against the decision of Cork City Council to grant planning permission for a €300 million development, incorporating an enlarged city library.

Cork City Council granted planning permission late last year to Frinailla Developments for the mixed use development on a 0.5 hectare site on the Grand Parade which will see the developer replace the existing city library and replace it with a new facility twice the size.

Under the terms of the planning permission granted by Cork City Council, Frinailla Developments will build a new library with a gross floor area of 6,200 sq metres over six floors as part of the mixed use development with a total gross floor area of 40,000 sq metres.

The development, which is designed by Reddy O'Ri­ordan, Staelhi & Associates, will range from three to eight storeys and will include seven retail units totalling almost 10,000 sq metres as well as two cafes, almost 12,000 sq metres of office space and 24 apartments. The development also involves the construction of a two-level basement car park as well as the demolition of a number of buildings on both the western side of the Grand Parade and the eastern side of South Main Street and Kift's Lane, which link the two.

Cork City Council has also granted permission to Frinailla Developments for the widening, improvement and reinstatement of Kift's Lane as well as the reinstatement of Old Post Office Lane which also runs from Grand Parade to South Main Street.

However, Department of the Environment officials pointed out the area is rich in archaeology and submitted that the city council has not paid due attention to the impact of the development on both above-ground and buried archaeology, including the medieval city wall which traverses the site.

"There has been little attempt within the development as proposed to show how the city wall could be preserved within an appropriate buffer or be incorporated and/or presented within the development," said the Department of the Environment.

The department acknowledged that a large amount of excavation has already taken place in the area but pointed out that the proposal to create two basement levels will require excavation well below the depths of surviving archaeological deposits.

An Taisce said that it broadly welcomed several aspects of the proposal, in particular the provision of "a new public library for the citizens of Cork, more than twice as big as the old one", as well as the opening up and widening of Kift's Lane.

However, it expressed serious concerns about the proposed height of the development, which, together with its east-west orientation, will ensure that it becomes a dominant feature of the city particularly from historic vantage points on the southside.

An Taisce cautioned that the scale of the development will "set the tone" for any developments in adjoining sites and the Grand Parade proposal from Frinailla Developments would be used to try to justify buildings of similar scale and height in the area.

Cork city manager Joe Gavin said that he did not wish to speculate on the outcome of An Bord Pleanála's assessment which is due in March but he did point out that Cork City Council had a good record in terms of having its decisions upheld by An Bord Pleanála.

"We spent a lot of time working with Frinailla on their proposal and as part of the planning permission we made it a condition they would have to reduce some of the development - we were happy if those conditions were met we would have a very fine development," he said.

Date : 04-01-2008