UCD has reapplied for planning permission to renovate and expand Nova UCD. Located in Merville House, a protected structure, NovaUCD is home to the university’s startups. Since the building is near full capacity, UCD wants to demolish the south wing of the structure in order to replace it with a new two storey building, while further renovating the north, east, and south wings.
UCD originally applied to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for planning permission on the 3rd of April seeking to expand NovaUCD and create more on-site car parking spaces. The application was rejected on the 25th of May, solely due to the fact that UCD’s wish to expand parking facilities at the building came too close to land reserved for the Dublin Eastern Bypass Corridor motorway.
As part of the renovation work, UCD sought to increase parking spaces at NovaUCD from 124 to 164 spaces, alongside the provision of an additional 10 bicycle and 7 motorcycle spaces. The two upgraded car parks would have extended to near UCD’s boundary with the N11 road.
The Council noted that the ‘site of the proposed development is located within lands to be reserved free from development as identified for the Dublin Eastern Bypass Corridor motorway scheme.’ This is a ‘future national roads scheme that is subject to a Long-Term Road Objective, as set out in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan, 2016-2022.’
Therefore, the Council ruled that the proposed development would be ‘premature pending the final determination of the road layout, would contravene materially a development objective set out in the Development Plan and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.’
The University still wants to demolish the south wing and replace it with a two storey building with ‘screened plant at roof level.’ The application also includes plans for ‘the addition of a single storey internal glazed walkway to the perimeter of the east quadrangle courtyard and a new single storey annex to the north facade of the complex.’ It further wishes to replace the ‘south non-original porch door with a glazed single door to facilitate universal access.’
Image Above: NovaUCD
The Original Rejection
Margueite Cahill, Director of Planning, submitted the report which recommended refusal of the application. This report noted that the Department of Transport had earlier recommended the refusal of the plan in a message on the 23rd of May 2017.
The report noted that while the ‘proposed development of a two storey extension to an existing building within NovaUCD for educational purposes with the University, is considered to be acceptable in principle, however the works are located directly adjected and within the area identified in the Dublin Eastern Bypass Corridor Protection Study Area, 2011 and the Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County Development Plan 2016-2022.’
It also mentioned that the proposed development and including the extension to NovaUCD and works to the car park area in the north-eastern corner of the site would encroach upon lands that have specifically identified at national level as a route corridor to be protected.
At the point in the letter where the official refusal is given, someone handwrote in an extra paragraph. This reads: ‘Consideration was given to seeking additional information and asking the applicant to omit the car park and redesign the extension however any revisions would need to address the guidelines (A to J) as set out in the NRA ‘Corridor Protection Study’ and this may result in a more fundamental redesign than can be addressed by further information.’ The initials ‘LmG’ are written under this note, which matches the name of the Senior Planner.
Car Park Problems
The rejection was set out in an 18-page report. The report identified the car parks as the main problem. The expansion of the car parks would encroach into the area reserved for the Dublin Eastern Bypass. Notwithstanding the road issue, the Transportation Department also said that UCD had failed to ‘sufficiently’ demonstrate a need for the additional car parking spaces.
The report stated that the car parking requirements for NovaUCD was more suited to the ‘Offices – Business, Professional or Science and Technology Based’ category, as opposed to the ‘College of Higher Education, University’ one it sought. Parking for the former is based on 1 spot per 100 square metres of gross floor area in a public transport corridor, whereas the latter is measured by staff numbers.
The report noted the expansion would give NovaUCD a gross floor area of 5661 square metres, which corresponds to 57 spaces. However, there are already 124 spaces there. The report noted an October 2016 Audit of staff access cards revealed 27 care holders were UCD staff, as opposed to 260 staff card holders from Nova’s commercial client companies, with a further 21 card holders being virtual or server room clients.
It further observed that UCD’s Parking Permit Scheme made it difficult to accurately assess the car parking requirements at Nova UCD, and suggested it may actually be restricting its availability. It noted that a specific scheme would help solve the parking situation, such as operated in the nearby National Institute for Bioprocessing.
The New Application
The University requested a pre-planning application consultation with the Council in mid-June in advance of its new application. This meeting was held on July 4th with representatives from the Planning and Transport Departments. UCD Estate Services, Arup (an engineering firm), Kavanagh Tuite Architects, and Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates were present for UCD.
UCD’s new planning application is 434 pages long. The application noted that ‘at this meeting, it was agreed that the building from would be further set back from the road reservation line to allow for underground services, screening and access.’
Arup submitted documents on the car parking provision in light of the UCD Travel Plan. It noted that the new plan did not propose to extend parking at NovaUCD beyond its current capacity of 124 spaces. Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates submitted a report on traffic and transportation requirements at NovaUCD. 6 of the 124 current spaces are to be turned in disabled spots, since there is only a single disabled parking spot available. 10 new covered bike spaces will be constructed.
They also set out a step-by-step response to the original rejection decision. UCD wants to relocate parking spaces on the eastern side of the building, which is encroaching on the route reservation, to the north-west side. There will now be an extended minimum distance of 2 metres between the proposed development and the route reservation.
Their report also made a wry observation on traffic in UCD. The expansion of NovaUCD will allow 48 more staff members, without any corresponding increase in parking spaces, and will thus help reduce the parking supply per head on campus, as part of UCD’s Travel Plan.
Appendix B of the initial application provided a history of Merville House. Bought by UCD in the 1950s, it was used for scientific research and teaching until 2003, when the Conway Institute opened. Planning permission for the master plan to renovate the 18th century house was granted in September 2001. The building was ready for operation and was officially opened as NovaUCD in October 2003. Further permission was granted in 2008 to add a 35 square metre food servery on the ground floor, and a 23 square metre meeting room on the first floor, attached to the ‘north eastern façade of the existing east courtyard.’
The planning application for the project alone in April cost UCD €4,340.70, which consisted of a Class 4 charge of 1,183.53 square metres by €3.60 per square metre, and another €80 for a Class 13 application. The application fee for the one filed this month was €3,917.60. It consisted of a Class 4 application of 1,066 square metres at €3.60 per square metre, and the Class 13 fee of €80.
Cian Carton – Editor