In July 2022, the IGS objected to the construction of two new apartment buildings within the grounds of Blackrock House, a protected structure. While approval was given for the refurbishment of the house itself, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council refused planning permission for the two new buildings. The IGS made the following observation on the first party appeal to An Bord Pleanala against this decision.
Re: Proposed development at Blackrock House (a protected structure), 28 Newtown Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin and Maretimo Gardens East
An Bord Pleanala reference: PL06D.314653
Local authority reference: D22A/0469
To whom it may concern,
This planning application proposes the refurbishment of Blackrock House, the provision of additional apartments within it, and the construction of 2 no. new residential blocks in its gardens.
While the Irish Georgian Society welcomes the proposed refurbishment of Blackrock House, we wish to submit an observation on the first party appeal due to the detrimental impact the new residential blocks would have on the character and setting of the house, and due to the further significant erosion of its gardens.
The core of Blackrock House was built c. 1774 for John Lees, Secretary of the newly established Irish Post Office, with the adjoining wings constructed afterwards, possibly, as suggested in the Architectural Heritage Impact Assessment, to accommodate reception rooms required by the occupancy of the Lord Lieutenant. The Impact Assessment also records the subdivision of the house in the 1930s and ‘40s and the loss of its once extensive gardens to housing developments during that period. The House, together with its entrance gates, is listed in the Record of Protected Structures for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and is of significant architectural and historical interest.
Blackrock House gardens
In considering the evolution of 19th century suburbs around Dublin, the architect and historian Laura Johnstone notes:
In the eighteenth century, many of the villas in coastal villages and settlements on the outskirts of Dublin were non-permanent summer retreats. By the early nineteenth century, Monkstown and Dunleary were growing in
popularity as seaside resorts. It became fashionable to live permanently in these resort landscapes partly due to a belief in the health-giving properties of the sea air. The emerging professional and upper-middle classes retreated to the suburbs to escape the overcrowded unsanitary conditions of the declining city centre…. This development created something neither city nor country, but rather in-between, a new suburban landscape in which dwelling and leisure were combined.
Johnstone, L. (2016) Vision for Suburbia on the Longford de Vesci Estate, IADS, XVIII, 89
Johnstone observes the lack of research into historic suburban development in Dublin relative to the work that has been done on the urban planning of the eighteenth-century city. A particular absence is that of studies into the gardens that were laid out around suburban houses and villas and which often surpassed them in aesthetic and design terms. She notes that:
…the setting-out of private pleasure grounds and public parks was an intrinsic part of nineteenth-century suburban development. (ibid, p. 99)
While the historic gardens of Blackrock House have been significantly denuded over time, the house remains within a sizeable garden area that forms an intrinsic part of its character. The Irish Georgian Society contends that in building over the greater part of this garden, the proposed development would forever compromise an integral part of the heritage interest of the House.
County Development Plan 2022-28
It is noted that in considering higher density developments such as that proposed in Blackrock House, the County Development Plan seeks to safeguard Protected Structures. It states:
In some circumstances higher residential density development may be constrained by Architectural Conservation Areas (ACA) and Candidate Architectural Conservation Areas (cACA) designations, Protected Structures and other heritage designations. To enhance and protect ACAs, cACAs, Heritage Sites, Record of Monuments and Places, Protected Structures and their settings, new residential development will be required to minimise any adverse effect in terms of height, scale, massing and proximity. (p. 84)
Attention is drawn to the following provisions of Policy Objective HER8: Work to Protected Structures (Development Plan 2022-28):
It is a Policy Objective to:
iv. Ensure that any development, modification alteration, or extension affecting a Protected Structure and/or its setting is sensitively sited and designed, and is appropriate in terms of the proposed scale, mass, height, density, layout and materials.
viii. Protect the curtilage of protected structures and to refuse planning permission for inappropriate development within the curtilage and attendant grounds that would adversely impact on the special character of the Protected Structure.
ix. Protect and retain important elements of built heritage including historic gardens, stone walls, entrance gates and piers and any other associated curtilage features.
x. Ensure historic landscapes and gardens associated with Protected Structures are protected from inappropriate development (consistent with NPO 17 of the NPF and RPO 9.30 of the RSES).
Blackrock House, a protected structure, is of considerable architectural and historical interest and as such should be fully protected through the provisions of the County Development Plan as highlighted in this submission. The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the proposed development and infilling of much of the remaining garden area around the house would irretrievably diminish its character as a historic suburban villa and so would be contrary to the provisions of the Plan. As such, the Society urges An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for the planning application.
Executive Director Irish Georgian Society