Plans for 191 build-to-rent apartments in a large scheme which included the renovation of an historic former distillery mills in Cork City have been shot down.
In its ruling, An Bord Pleanála cited concerns about the impact of renovations on the historic character and architectural quality of the former Hewitts Mills structure in Blackpool — one of three adjacent sites flanking the N20 in Blackpool earmarked for the Distillery Quarter strategic housing development (SHD).
It also cited the lack of communal public open space across the overall scheme.
The vacant and boarded-up mills building, a recorded monument which is also listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, is one of the larger, more significant industrial buildings in Cork and retains much of its original internal and external features.
It was part of the extensive Watercourse Distillery complex, once one of the largest distilleries in Ireland in 1836, reflecting Cork’s importance in 18th and 19th century whiskey manufacture in Ireland and Northern Europe.
Eichsfeld Ltd, care of Fehily Timoney, Cork, applied to An Bord Pleanála last November for permission for an SHD to include 191 apartments, 10 parking spaces and 448 bike spaces on three adjacent sites along the N20 — a vacant site at Assumption Road, the vacant and boarded-up mills building, and a site at Shandon Villa, Popes Hill Road.
The apartment building on the first site was to comprise 99 units in two blocks, up to nine storeys high, the mills building was to be retained and adapted at its existing height, with the incorporation of an additional building of four to seven storeys to the rear to provide 69 apartments, and a single three to six-storey apartment building on the third site.
Some 16 submissions were made, including from the Cork Foyer and An Taisce. While the re-development of the sites, and the mills building in particular, was welcomed, several concerns were raised about the treatment of the mills building.
In a 161-page report, Bord Pleanála inspector Lorraine Dockery, said she was very cognisant of the balance that was required to be achieved between protecting architectural heritage while accommodating growth and development within a thriving city.
“The re-development of the mill building is welcomed in principle,” she said.
“I consider that an appropriate re-development of this site would add significantly to the amenity of the area.
“However, while the retention and re-use of the mill structure is welcomed, I am not convinced that the design proposal in this instance (in particular to the western elevation) reflects and/or is sensitive to the historical importance of the site.”
An option to grant planning for the other two sites was deemed inappropriate so the planning board refused planning for the entire scheme.