Strategic Housing Development – University College Cork

Having been vacant and derelict for over a decade, University College Cork (UCC) acquired the site in 2014 with the intent of providing a high-quality landmark building at this gateway site into the city whilst also providing much needed student accommodation to help meet the significant demand that exists in the city.

The proposed development, which qualified as a Strategic Housing Development (SHD), comprises a 255 no. bed space purpose-built student accommodation complex (gross floor area of 8,664.10 sqm). The complex is formed of 4 no. residential student accommodation blocks above a single storey podium, with the blocks varying in height from 8 to 10 floors. Ancillary student support facilities are provided at ground floor level as well as a healthcare/wellness centre and a commercial/café fronting onto the adjacent streets.

McCutcheon Halley were engaged by UCC to provide guidance to the wider project team in relation to the new SHD application process as well as to coordinate the submission of the application documents to An Bord Pleanála.

Given the planning history of the site as well as the site-specific context and requirements of UCC, McCutcheon Halley devoted significant time to pre-planning consultation with both the planning authority and local stakeholders. This included the coordination of and participation in non-statutory public consultation meetings at the initial stages of the planning process resulting in many third-party concerns being addressed at an early stage.

Key issues of the development proposal included:

Building Height – The building is categorised as a tall building under Cork City Council’s Development Plan, however the site is not located within either of the two areas specifically identified as being appropriate for tall buildings. McCutcheon Halley successfully demonstrated that given the ambiguity that exists within the plan in relation to tall buildings, the proposal would not constitute a material contravention, and given its context and gateway location, a tall building would be appropriate at this location.

Visual Impact – Given the height of the building, a key element of the application was the assessment of the visual impact on the adjacent County Hall (a protected structure) and on a number of key protected views. McCutcheon Halley provided guidance relating to all aspects of the assessment which was critical in securing permission for the scheme in its entirety.

Residential Amenity – Given the sites context adjacent to a number of residential dwellings and student accommodation complexes, a key consideration within the application was the potential impact on the surrounding residential amenity. McCutcheon Halley prepared and coordinated a number of key reports to accompany the application including a wind and microclimate report, sunlight, daylight and overshadowing report and a student accommodation need and management plan.

In March 2018, McCutcheon Halley secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the student accommodation complex. The development will breathe new life into a prominent site in the city while also enabling UCC to grow their university population, compete globally as a third level educational facility and enhance their central role in the social, cultural and economic life of the city, region and country.