Despite local opposition, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has received planning permission to develop its new €90 million education and research centre in the centre of Dublin, the Irish Times reported today.
An Bord Pleanála has upheld Dublin City Council’s decision to approve the new facility, which could stretch to seven stories, in spite of concerns from An Taisce that the plans were “not sufficiently sensitive to the historic environs of St Stephen’s Green”.
The new facility will stretch across the RCSI campus in the area around St Stephen’s Green. It will include research laboratories and classrooms, as well as catering, recreational and welfare facilities.
The development will involve the destruction of a vacant office block at the Ardilaun Centre, formerly the site of Eircom’s headquarters, as well as a smaller office building on Proud’s Lane.
Several parties appealed the development approval, including Cuffe Lane Residents Homeowners and An Taisce. However, the board said that the proposed development, liable to a number of planning conditions, would not take away from the visual amenities of the area or the character of adjoining protected structures and the St Stephen’s Green Architectural Conservation Area.
RCSI’s consultants said that it would guarantee the regeneration of an underused site in the city centre and help to brighten up the street view through encouraging football and activity in the area around it.
They added that “the proposed development is central to the college’s ability to attract high quality students and staff”.
The college amended its original plan for the new research building by excluding one floor following concerns about its visual impact on the delicate location and the possible impact on local residents.
RCSI, which was first established in 1784, has 3,800 students from 60 countries. In December 2019, after years of lobbying, it obtained university status.
In a press statement at the time, then-Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor – who lost her seat in last week’s general election – said the “title of university is highly prized in our higher education system and its integrity must be protected”.
“This authorisation”, she said, “is not lightly bestowed nor easily obtained. RCSI meets all of the challenging conditions laid out in the legislation. It demonstrates excellence in its continued research record; the breadth and intensity of its programmes; coherent and effective governance; student access and composition and staff qualifications requirements”.