Student Accommodation at the Former Crow’s Nest Site, Cork

Having been vacant and derelict for over a decade, UCC acquired the site in 2014 with the intent of providing a high-quality landmark building at this gateway site into the city while also providing much needed student bedspaces 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 bedspace 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 above ground level. 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 Pleanala. McCutcheon Halley were responsible for the management of all planning aspects for the redevelopment of this site, including the management of a wider multidisciplinary team.

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. MH Planning successfully argued that given the ambiguity that exists within the plan in relation to tall buildings, the proposal would not materially contravene the plan, and given its 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. MH Planning provided guidance relating to all aspects of the assessment which was critical in securing permission for the scheme in its entirety.
  • An Ecological Impact Assessment and an AA Screening Report which objectively concluded that the proposal will not result in any significant effects in relation to designated Natura 2000 sites;
  • 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.

Result

In March 2018, McCutcheon Halley secured permission under the SHD process 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. McCutcheon Halley are UCC’s retained planning consultants, providing the university with planning guidance and professional planning services for this and many other developments.