There is a large, black, solid metal gate sliding back and forth between the two centuries old pillars at the entrance to Kevin Street Garda Station.
Well, it’s not a Garda station as such any more. The Gardai moved out when their brand spanking new five storey building next door was completed last year.
Right now, the old station is being used “temporarily” by an unspecified Garda Unit. There is no date for their planned departure.
The buildings on the site aren’t important because they’re beautiful. They’re not. And they’re not important because they have been used by a police for in one way or another for two centuries.
They are important because, more than 800 years ago, they were part of St Sepulchre’s Palace, residence of the then Archbishop of Dublin.
You used to be able to look in and see them.
And it seems that Gardai did not need planning permission to install the gates.
Dublin City Council, which determines these things says they are exempt.
Why? Well, first the Council said there was no new gate. Really.
Then they came up with this:
“For clarity sake there has been a metal security gate in this position for in excess of 7 years.
The original sliding gate was replaced within the last 2 years for security reasons and given that a gate arrangement has been in place at this location for in excess of 7 years DCC are statute barred from pursuing this matter further. It should be further noted that this replacement would be considered exempt under Section 4 (1)(h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.
4.—(1) The following shall be exempted developments for the purposes of this Act—(h) development consisting of the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any structure, being works which affect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures.”
And then this:
“As previously stated, the original sliding gate was replaced within the last 2 years for security reasons.
However, given that a gate arrangement has been in place at this location for in excess of 7 years, DCC are statute barred from pursuing this matter further.”
And finally, in relation to the gate, this:
“Dublin City Council is aware of the structures that are protected associated with Kevin Street Garda Station including the associated boundary.
The gate currently in situ is considered to be exempted development under Section 4 (1)(h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.
The gate is exempted development under Section 181 (1)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the associated regulations contained in Part 9 86 1 (a) (i) which states in accordance with Section181(1)(a) of the Act, the provisions of the Act shall not apply to the following classes of development:
(a) Development consisting of the provision of – (i) Garda Stations or other buildings, or other structures or facilities, used for the purposes of or in connection with the operations of An Garda Síochána.
Dublin City Council has no further comment in respect of this matter.”
All of this is despite the fact that the gate posts are listed, by the Council itself, as ‘Protected Structures” and the current, solid, gates bear no resemblance to the ones they replaced.
The Council also insists that, although the new gates entirely block the view from the street of the old garda station – part of which was once the Archbishop’s Palace – “do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures.”
A building conservation expert – who for reasons I don’t fully understand does not want to go on the record – says the Council’s attitude is “disingenuous.”
“The gate piers fall under the curtilage of the Protected Structure and therefore normal rules of exemption do not reply. The simple benchmark is Section 5. If one applied for a Section 5 exemption from planning permission to replace a transparent metal gate with a solid metal gate at this location, it would be refused, as it would have a damaging impact on the special character. Indeed, this is a useful exercise if you were willing to part with €80, as any individual can apply for a Section 5 for any location. The result in this case would almost certainly be a refusal once it passed the desk of the DCC conservation office,” he said.
The Office of Public Works said there had been a motorised sliding gate on the entrance to the old Garda Station in Kevin Street for a long time. “It has not been possible to find out when this gate was installed.”
Images from Google Earth two years ago suggest it was installed since then.
The OPW added: “The gates were upgraded recently to bring them into line with the safety requirements for such gates. The gate itself was replaced and clad in sheet metal. The new gate is the same size as the old one.
“The building is no longer a Garda Station but is occupied on a temporary basis by a specialist unit of An Garda Síochána, until the new facility in Military Road is built. The site is required to be secured and in order to do so this gate is necessary. The upgrade was necessary as without it the gates could not be used.”
The building conservation expert said there was a consistent problem with planning enforcement in Dublin – claiming there effectively isn’t any, either by way of personnel, expertise or meaningful penalty.
“Planning enforcement is also a useful means to bypass the conservation process entirely. Many such files don’t even reach the conservation office, as the officer makes their own judgement to quickly close a case.
“He claimed there was in excess of 1,200 planning enforcement files presently open in Dublin City Council.
“There also appears to be an unstated policy, especially in the case of Protected Structures, to leave files open for over seven years, rendering them statute-barred and thus closed.,” he said.
In relation to that, the Council said: “Planning enforcement are not aware of any specific cases relating to protected structures that have been open in excess of 7 years and it would take a number of days of cross referencing files through system queries and manual cross referencing to fully verify if this is the case. Given the planning enforcement sections heavy workload and priorities, we cannot verify this at this time.”
The Office of Public Works, charged with protecting our historical sites says:
“There has been a motorised sliding gate on the entrance to the old Garda Station in Kevin Street for a long time. It has not been possible to find out when this gate was installed. The gates were upgraded recently to bring them into line with the safety requirements for such gates. The gate itself was replaced and clad in sheet metal. The new gate is the same size as the old one.
The building is no longer a Garda Station but is occupied on a temporary basis by a specialist unit of An Garda Síochána, until the new facility in Military Road is built. The site is required to be secured and in order to do so this gate is necessary. The upgrade was necessary as without it the gates could not be used.”
Even An Taisce seems unconcerned saying this: “It is most likely that this gate is a temporary arrangement until a longer-term plan and future for the important historic site of the former Garda Stn. / Palace, and its appropriate conservation, is brought forward.
In this light there is no benefit in An Taisce pursuing this, and in any case the site, being managed by the OPW, has State exemption from works that would ordinarily require planning permission.”
So that’s where we are.
An 800 year old building, regularly visited by, among others, Jonathan Swift, behind a solid metal gate, next door to St Patrick’s Cathedral and nobody seems to give a damn – apart from those in charge of Marsh’s Library, also next door.
Lessons learned from Wood Quay?