Trinity has concluded that appealing An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse permission to the 278-bed Oisín House project would not be successful, and will instead alter the building’s proposed design and draw up new financial models.
This decision not to submit an appeal to the High Court by making an application for judicial review was not unexpected – judicial reviews have a low success rate and are concerned with how the board came to their decision rather than the merits of the application itself.
The College is consulting with architects and doing up new costs for altering the project’s design after permission was refused to the €52 million project last month, the Dean of Students, Prof Kevin O’Kelly, told The University Times. The project was rejected based on concerns over the visual impact of the building’s design, which the board said would “represent overdevelopment, be overbearing and visually obtrusive”.
Speaking to The University Times, O’Kelly stated that, having addressed consultants, the College was unaware of any issues with the decision making process and believed that the process to be “clean”.
O’Kelly stated that one option that has been considered is the removal one floor to reduce the gap in height between the building those that surround it. A more significant redesign may still be necessary, however, as the removal of one floor was recommended by the board’s inspector, and the proposal was still rejected.
O’Kelly added that such a change would also result in the loss of about 50 beds, raising questions about how well the project can fulfill its aims: “We might have to ask the question of what’s worth building when it’s smaller and we’re trying to get 2,000 rooms.”
The halting of the project is a huge blow to Trinity’s efforts to address the ongoing student accommodation crisis and its own goal, as stated in the College’s strategic plan, to build 2,000 bed spaces by 2019.
A further delay will come as any new design will have to be re-approved by groups including the College Board as well as go back through the planning process. However, if introduced successfully and soon, government plans to introduce legislation to create a new fast-track application process for student accommodation could potentially limit this delay.
O’Kelly added that the refusal for the project to progress in its current form “raised a much bigger question of the ability to build in the city centre”. He stated that the College is limited as it is acting in a conservation area. He also stated that Trinity “is limited in what it can borrow as an institution and is being outbid in its determination to bring financially accessible accommodation to students”.
“Trinity has a long history of building new projects and getting the balance right”, he added, “This has stopped us”.