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Conservation Memorial at Parnell Square, Dublin 1

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The Irish Georgian Society objected to the construction of a new memorial at Parnell Square given the impact it would have on the character and setting of one of Georgian Dublin's finest architectural set-pieces. following presentation was delivered at the An Bord Pleanála Oral Hearing held to review the proposed construction of a new memorial to victims of abuse at Parnell Square, Dublin 1 (Thursday 26th August 2013)

Proposal: The proposal involves the creation of a covered walkway through an existing podium and connecting a new hard and soft landscaped civic area located at the western extremity of the Garden of Remembrance. The new civic area incorporates seating, water features, feature lighting and sculptured elements. The proposal also provides for a gated opening in the railings along Parnell Square West to access the memorial, new service access gates to Parnell Square North and all associated site development works. The application site area measures 2,140 sq m
Date of submission: 22nd October 2012
Applicant: Office of Public Works
ABPRef: PL 29N.242067
P.A.Reg.Ref: WEB1196/12

The Irish Georgian Society wishes to thank An Bord Pleanála for allowing us to make an observation at the oral hearing today.  The Irish Georgian Society wishes to strongly appeal Dublin City Council’s decision to grant permission for the construction of a Memorial to Victims of Abuse in Institutions.

As stated in our original letters of objections to both Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála, while cognisant of the importance of creating such a memorial we strongly disagree with the location and configuration of the current proposal within The Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square.

The Society wants to make very clear that we recognize the importance of commemorating the suffering of victims of abuse in institutions.   In particular after listening to Bernadette Fahy, of the Memorial Committee speak yesterday, we are also keenly aware of the considered, sensitive and lengthy consultation and design process undertaken by the applicants.  

Notwithstanding the aforementioned, we are strongly opposed to the siting of this memorial and consider that despite the considered process, the one area which the applicant did not take due regard of, was the architectural heritage significance of the proposed site.  

The proposed site, Parnell Square is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian architectural ensembles.  This architectural significance has been fully elucidated by the contribution at this oral hearing from the conservation architect, James Kelly, who fully outlined that Parnell Square, even in its current compromised state, ‘is a rare surviving urban space of international significance’.

The Irish Georgian Society would also fully support Mr. Kelly’s contention that given the architectural, historic, and cultural associations of the Square that Dublin City Council should have exercised their discretionary powers to request the applicant to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Regarding planning policy and legislation the Irish Georgian Society wishes to note the following: that this planning application has herewith to been premised on the assumption that the historic pleasure gardens of Parnell Square, which is the location of proposed memorial, is not a protected structure.  The Society contends that as the Rotunda Hospital is a protected structure, that the current site lies within its curtilage, and as such must be given all the protection offered under Part IV of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

Furthermore, the Society wishes to remind the applicant that under the government’s Architectural Heritage Protection: Guidelines for Planning Authorities, that Chapter 13, addressing the issue of ‘Curtilage and Attendant Grounds’,  clearly states that ‘the notion of curtilage is not defined by legislation, but for the purposes of these guidelines it can be taken to be the parcel of land immediately associated with that structure and which is (or was) in use for the purposes of the structure’.  It also explains that ‘in many cases the curtilage of a protected structure will coincide with the land owned together with it but this is not necessarily so’.  It seems obvious to the Irish Georgian Society that the historic pleasure gardens of Parnell Square, which were originally laid out to raise funds for the erection of the Rotunda Hospital, a protected structure, lies within its curtilage.  As such the Society contends that this planning application should be considered on this basis, and that full respect should be paid to the government guidelines which state that ‘where a formal relationship exists between a protected structure and its ancillary buildings or features, new construction which interrupts that relationship should rarely be permitted.’

The Society reminds the oral hearing that the proposed site, namely Parnell Square, is the sole surviving Irish 18th century Pleasure Garden and, as Mr. Kelly notes contains all the elements of the 18th century Pleasure Gardens, namely ‘the gardens, assembly rooms, terraces, monumental obelisks, and rotunda’.   The Society considers that if granted, the proposed memorial will represent a further insensitive incursion into the designed landscape and curtilage of the Rotunda Hospital.  Taking this into consideration, the Society strongly reiterates our belief that this memorial not be given planning consent.  

The Irish Georgian Society would also like to take this opportunity to advocate that Parnell Square be urgently appraised by Dublin City Council as we strongly believe it should be afforded the protections of a statutory Architectural Conservation Area.   Corresponding we encourage Dublin City Council to consider, in so far as is practical , the conservation and restoration of these 18th century gardens.   We believe that to do so could act as the catalyst for regeneration of Parnell Square and potentially the broader North Georgian core.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to our observation.

Emmeline Henderson,

Assistant Director & Conservation Manager
Irish Georgian Society