Locals oppose demolition of 19th Century church on hospital grounds

A proposal to build an 8-storey private hospital on the grounds of St James’s Hospital has been appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The application had included the demolition of a 19th Century church located on the grounds of the hospital, close to the Rialto entrance.  This proposal in April 2009 was part of the Government’s co-location project.

Local residents opposed the project, with Dublin City Council receiving 50 objections. Dublin South Central Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne also objected on the grounds that the development would cause huge disruption to traffic, parking, and residents’ privacy, and deprive the community of a sacred space.

Despite all the objections, Dublin City Council granted planning permission with 23 conditions attached on 26 January 2010.  Catherine Byrne TD firmly believes the project is not in the best interests of local residents and patients in St James’s Hospital.  She said, “The church is part of our local heritage in the inner city and is of significant historic importance.”

A survey was carried out by the students of UCD’s Masters in Urban and Building Conservation degree in 2001.  Professor Loughlin Kealy from the UCD School of Architecture found that the church should be listed on the Record of Protected Structures.

Further to these findings, at a Committee meeting on 21 May 2008, Cllr. Clare Byrne hit out at Dublin City County Officials for not listing the church as a protected structure. In May 2009, the Council’s Conservation Department decided that the church did not warrant inclusion on the list.

She has said since that “It has now emerged that this process was halted by Dublin City Council without any consultation with or notification to councillors.  This has come as a blow to the councillors who had all agreed that the chapel’s status should be protected.”

Cllr. Byrne continued, “In April 2009, Synchrony Healthcare lodged a planning application to demolish this chapel and build an 8-storey private hospital at St. James’s.  However, this chapel has great historical association with the South Dublin Union Workhouse, the 1916 Rising and has hosted the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux. Its status as a protected structure must be clarified.”

“Dublin City Council’s handling of this issue has been very disappointing.  The lack of communication impeded any chance for proper debate on the issue and a whole year has been wasted.  Council officials must heed the decisions taken by members – they do not have the right to over-rule what has been democratically agreed.”

Six appeals have been submitted and the final decision is due to be delivered by 21 June 2010 by An Bord Pleanála.

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