24 Sep 2008
Following yesterday's rant about the state of architectural conservation in this country I came upon this by Olvia Kelly in today's Irish Times:
THE LEGAL representative for 21 appellants opposing Sean Dunne’s plans for Ballsbridge has accused a conservation expert engaged by Mr Dunne of lacking impartiality and “holding a brief for the developer”.

Architect David Slattery wrote the architectural conservation report submitted as part of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Mr Dunne’s planning application.

Counsel for 21 local residents opposing the development, Colm Mac Eochaidh told the An Bord Pleanála hearing on the scheme that under the rules of the EIS process the conservation report must consider negative impacts of a development as well as positive and neutral impacts. However Mr Slattery had ignored any potential negative impacts of the scheme, he said.

Mr Slattery in his report had emphasised the negative impact on the area’s architectural heritage of the 1960s and 1970s buildings on and near the site, and had used this to justify Mr Dunne’s development, Mr Mac Eochaidh said. He had not considered the negative impact of Mr Dunne’s development, but had written a “partial, limited, client-serving” report, he said.

“You were holding a brief for the developer,” Mr Mac Eochaidh said. “That is almost offensive,” Mr Slattery replied.

Mr Mac Eochaidh asked if Mr Slattery felt he had been completely independent in writing his report. “In any sense were you seeking to promote the merit of Mr Dunne’s proposal?” he asked.

Mr Slattery said he had been completely impartial in writing his report.

Mr Mac Eochaidh suggested that Mr Slattery’s services had been engaged too late in the process to have any influence over the development.

“When an expert is brought in at the end of the process impartiality is a problem. If you said ‘this is a terrible proposition for the Pepper Canister Church [on Mount Street]’ they couldn’t lop off a couple of storeys two weeks before the planning application was made. You were consulted too late.” Mr Slattery said it might have been more valuable if he had been consulted at an earlier stage. However, he said that did not affect the integrity of his report.

“What is most important is that my impartiality has not in any way been compromised.”
You have to feel bad for David - having found myself on more than one ocassion in the situation where the developer starts discussing my views of his proposal while simultaneously waving the cheque for the money he owes me in front of my nose I know how awkward these things can be.

Assessments of the impact of development on buildings of architectural or historic importance should be carried out independently. Having the developer pay for the assessment is ludicrous. The Minister, his officials, the local authorities, the architectural profession, the building industry and Colm Mac Eochaidh know this already. So change the system and stop wasting our time and money on these ridiculous hearings where a charade of due process is put on display but not due process itself.

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