UCC redevelopment plans to double size of Tyndall institute and build bridge across River Lee

Planning application details bid to double the size of the Tyndall National Institute
UCC redevelopment plans to double size of Tyndall institute and build bridge across River Lee

A computer-generated image of the planned new bridge crossing the River Lee's north channel that will link the existing Tyndall campus to the planned new expanded Tyndall campus off the North Mall. Picture: Pedersen Focus & Scott Tallon Walker

University College Cork (UCC) has lodged a planning application to double the size of the Tyndall National Institute by redeveloping a major site on Cork's North Mall and building a new bridge crossing the River Lee.

The university said the planned new research centre will allow Tyndall to rapidly transition from research into prototyping and manufacturing of various technologies.

The proposed new development will ultimately cater for 250 postgraduate students and 750 staff once complete. It will include a new cycle and footbridge across the north channel of the River Lee. 

The new buildings will range in height from four to seven storeys and will include laboratories, offices, catering, and stores.

UCC and Tyndall lodged planning applications for the bridge and the new research centre this month which they said will allow them to work in conjunction with small and large industry partners in a co-located environment.

The planned new bridge will be 65m long and up to 4.5m wide. The tri-span structure on two piers will connect the existing Tyndall National Institute campus on the south to Tyndall's planned new facility on the north.

It will bring to more than 30 the number of bridges across the River Lee's north and south channels. 

UCC installed the new Cavanagh pedestrian bridge across the southern channel of the river in 2018 while Cork City Council installed the Mary Elmes Bridge in 2019 linking St Patrick's Quay to Merchant's Quay.

In the planning application, UCC said the current Tyndall research facilities are based in the old Lee Maltings Complex and the purpose of the project is to allow for the expansion and upgrade of Tyndall into a new purpose-built facility as well as providing additional public pedestrian access to the facility via the pedestrian and cycle bridge.

At the North Mall, it is planned to demolish the former Irish Distilleries Bottling Plant to build a new 16,135 square metre facility from four storeys at the east to seven storeys at the west. This comprises a mix of research laboratories, seminar rooms, offices, exhibition space and café. 

However, the demolition of the bottling plant is expected to be met by significant opposition. A petition has been started to persuade UCC not to demolish a disused industrial building, widely regarded as an example of classic 1960s architecture, completed in 1964 by leading Cork architect Frank Murphy, who won a Europa Nostra medal in 1975 for his body of work, including 1 South Mall, and Thompson House on MacCurtain St.

In its planning application, UCC said the building has been derelict since 2007 and is in a state of disrepair with exposed and rusting re-bar to its concrete canopies and significant water damage. 

"It also contains asbestos on the roof covering," the application states.

City Hall planners have also raised concerns. 

In pre-planning discussions with the council, planners said they were broadly supportive of the site's redevelopment but said they had concerns about the removal of the bottling plant. 

On a visit to the site in November, the council's architectural conservation officer Pat Ruane said he was strongly opposed to the building's demolition which he said was not respectful of a Frank Murphy building.

Decisions on the planning applications for the bridge and research centre are expected in early June.

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