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The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

IGS submission to Limerick City & County Council Re: Development proposals at Bishop’s Quay Limerick

06.10.2016

Posted by IGS


Architects' impressions of how the Bishop's Quay development will look - left and below (Image: Healy Partners Architects)

Re: Development proposals by Kirkland Investments Limited at Bishop's Quay, Lower Cecil Street, & Henry Street, Limerick
Planning Application: 16800 (Limerick City and County Council)

The Irish Georgian Society wishes to object to this planning application given the extensive internal alterations being proposed to no. 104 Henry Street (the Bishop’s Palace) and because of the significant detrimental impact the proposed 15-storey tower would have on the setting of the Bishop’s Palace and of the adjoining 105 Henry Street, a protected structure.

 

Setting

The Bishop’s Palace was constructed c. 1775 for Edmund Sexton Pery, 1st Viscount Pery, along with no. 105 Henry Street and was purchased by the Bishop of Limerick in 1784. It is included in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH, reg. no. 21517022) in which it is designated as being of ‘Regional’ importance for its architectural, artistic, and historical interest. In spite of its evident significance, the building is not included in the Record of Protected Structures (RPS) in the Limerick City Development Plan 2010-16. The adjoining house, no. 105 Henry Street, is included in both the NIAH (reg. no. 21517021) and in the Record of Protected Structures (ref. 051), both of which identify it as being of special architectural and artistic interest. 

The NIAH notes that the two houses are amongst “the grandest and most formally realised townhouse pair built according to a Palladian concept of the flanking range of outbuildings”.  This position is also reflected in Judith Hill’s report, 104 Henry Street, Limerick, Historical Assessment, which accompanies the planning application. In this she observes that “the design of the Bishop’s Palace and the adjacent house are remarkable for their scale and conception in the context not only of Limerick but of Irish Georgian urban architecture”.

The Irish Georgian Society has a particular concern about the impact of the proposed 15 storey tower on the character and setting of these two important Georgian buildings.

The Architectural Impact Assessment prepared by ARC Architectural Consultants and submitted with the application makes the following observation on the visual impact of the 15 storey tower:

View 7: from the junction of Henry Street and Glentworth Street
In the view the southern glass wall of the proposed 15 storey commercial building is seen above and behind nos. 104 and 105, a striking change to their setting. The potential visual impact of the proposed development, viewed from this location, is predicted to be ‘significant’. The potential of negative responses from viewers looking from this location is likely to be greater than from locations along the River.

The Irish Georgian Society concurs with this position and is of the view that the structure would have a significant detrimental impact on the character and setting of the two eighteenth century buildings. On this basis, we would contend that this element of the proposal would not fulfill the following provisions of the Development Plan (Special Standards Applying to Medium & High Rise Buildings) which are taken into account in considering high buildings:

  • The need to suitably incorporate the building into the urban grain;
  • The proposal should be very carefully related to, and not have any serious disadvantages to, its immediate surroundings, both existing and proposed, and especially to any other high buildings and prominent features in the vicinity and to existing open space (author’s emphasis).

The Irish Georgian Society also notes the provisions of Chapter 11 (Views Prospect) of the Plan which states that “local views of significance are also very important to the character and legibility of areas within Limerick. Local views will be identified on a case-by-case basis through the planning process. There will be a presumption against proposals that would cause unacceptable harm to local views of significance and their settings”. Furthermore, Policy LBR. 5 of the Plan states that “it is the policy of Limerick City Council to protect the intrinsic character and scale of the City and the City Skyline”.

On the grounds that the 15 storey tower would have a negative effect on the architectural integrity of nos. 104 and 105 Henry Street and that this would be contrary to the provisions of the Limerick City Development Plan, the Irish Georgian Society urges that permission be refused for this part of the development.

 

Change of use of no. 104 Henry Street (the Bishop’s Palace)

In describing nos. 104 and 105 Henry Street, Judith Hill notes that that the “houses were built on a larger scale than contemporary terraces in Limerick, [and that they had] larger rooms and consequently larger windows”. In the Bishop’s Palace she describes a “vast room” on the ground floor “that stretched from the front to rear with two windows on each façade” and notes that “the grandeur derived from handsome proportions and high levels of lighting was matched by the detailing”.

Hill notes that though many of the rooms in the Bishop’s Palace were later to be subdivided, the interventions “are reversible and much original material remains: the stair from ground to second floor; the stair from second floor to attic; the stair to the basement; most of the cornicing; the shutters, architraves and timberwork around the windows; doors and their architraves and linings; ceiling plasterwork in the entrance hall”. She asserts that “a full inventory is needed to quantify exactly what remains”. In concluding, Hill states that “the Bishop’s Palace stands out significantly in the context of Newtown Pery, both on Henry Street and from the river. It also stands out as a significant domestic building in the national context. It should be a protected structure”.

In their Architectural Impact Assessment, ARC describe how the proposals could result in “the loss of character and significant negative impacts on the heritage of the house”. Of particular concern to the Irish Georgian Society is that the report cautions how “the division of main rooms has the potential to result in the loss of lengths [of] cornices or in cornices being hidden behind false ceilings”.  It also notes that the proposed lift would result “in the potential loss of cornices, and the loss and/or moving of doorcases at each level”. Furthermore, they note that the potential “loss of many historic doors and doorcases” on the basis of proposals from the fire safety consultant and make strong recommendations against such a course of action. Other interventions are also flagged including “the proposed removal of the inner wall and doorway of the present front hall”.

The Irish Georgian Society regrets that the applicants have not sought to determine new uses for the Bishop’s palace that would allow the reinstatement of original floors plans and the removal of later partitions. Furthermore, the Society objects to the level of interventions proposed as part of the works programme given that they would involve a considerable loss of historic fabric. For this reason, we urge Limerick City Council to refuse permission for this element of the planning application.

 

Summary

The Irish Georgian Society appreciates that the development proposals would provide a means for the restoration and re-use of the Bishop’s Palace. However, we are strongly of the view that the significant interventions proposed to the building itself and the substantial negative impact of the proposed 15-storey tower on the setting of two important eighteenth century buildings do not justify the intensity and invasive nature of the development proposal. On these grounds we would urge that permission be refused.

Donough Cahill
Executive Director, IGS