Demolition of Sextant pub under scrutiny by Cork City Council

Demolition of Sextant pub under scrutiny by Cork City Council

The demolition of The Sextant Bar in Cork in August 2020. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE developers behind a proposal to build a 16-storey office block on the site of the former Sextant pub at Albert Quay in Cork have been asked to address its demolition as part of a request for further information from Cork City Council.

The bar was demolished a year ago after Progressive Commercial Construction Ltd, part of the John Cleary Developments (JCD) group, was granted planning permission for a 25-storey build-to-rent scheme at the city centre site. The tower was to be the first private apartment scheme of scale in the city since the 17-storey Elysian tower was delivered in 2008.

However, earlier this year, it emerged that the residential plan had been scrapped, following an appraisal process by consultants Deloitte. They concluded that building apartments was not financially viable and the developer announced plans instead for a 16-storey office block.

Particular focus on demolition 

A planning application for the office block on what’s known as the Carey Tool Hire site, between Navigation Square (built by O’Callaghan Properties/OCP) and 1 Albert Quay (by JCD) was lodged in May.

As part of the planning process, the Council has sought additional information in relation to the new proposal, including a request that the applicant address concerns regarding the demolition of the Sextant building. The Council says it has noted that “a number of third-party submissions and internal referral reports” raise concerns in this regard.

“It is further noted that this demolition was raised as a point of note during the pre-planning application consultation," the Council says.  

Files available to view online on the Council’s website in relation to the pre-planning phase of the new application do not refer to the demolition. A record of minutes of a pre-planning meeting on April 28 make no mention of it.

Among the submissions to the new development proposal is one from urban designers Jude Sherry and Frank O’Connor, directors of global design agency Anois, who argue that, under the new plan, the developer does not have permission to demolish the Sextant because the current office block application “fails to include a request to demolish the 145-year old NIAH building” and that the application is therefore "invalid". 

'Developer may be required to rebuild Sextant' 

They say that because the developer did not seek permission for demolition of the pub “they are required to rebuild the Sextant”.

The reference to the Sextant as a "NIAH building" relates to its inclusion in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, a database that records our built heritage, as an aid to its protection and conservation. The Sextant is listed in the database as a "distinctive public house on a prominent corner site", but that entry dates back to 1993 and An Bord Pleanála recently said its heritage value had been significantly compromised by numerous alterations over the years.

A visualisation of the 16-storey office tower planned for Albert Quay on a site that includes the location of the now-demolished Sextant Bar. 
A visualisation of the 16-storey office tower planned for Albert Quay on a site that includes the location of the now-demolished Sextant Bar. 

Ms Sherry and Frank O’Connor describe the Sextant as having played “a key part as a way-finder” in the city’s maritime history and they argue that the developer should have requested retention permission for the demolition as part of the new application.

A number of other submissions, including one from Cork City Green Party Councillor Dan Boyle, also object to the demolition of the Sextant.

'Full planning permission was in place' 

A spokesperson for the JCD Group said a detailed response is currently being prepared by the project design team in response to the Council’s request for further information.

The spokesperson stressed that “Full planning permission was in place for the demolition of the Sextant, therefore the issue of retention does not arise".  

When the city council was asked why it was seeking further information on the demolition of the Sextant from the developer, given the building is already knocked, they responded that they “cannot comment on planning applications which are currently under consideration”.

“A request for further information has been issued and we await a response to same. The application is available for viewing on the online planning enquiry system,” the Council said.

Requests for further information from developers in relation to large-scale building projects are par for the course.

The current request also asks the developer to submit a proposal showing a revised design with set-back of building lines to allow for the development of future transport infrastructure such as bus lanes, traffic lanes, cycle lanes and pedestrian footpaths.

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