Strategic Housing Development – University College Cork

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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-bed space purpose-built student accommodation complex (gross floor area of 8,664.10 sqm). The complex is formed of 4 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 the ground floor level as well as a healthcare/wellness centre and a commercial/café fronting onto the adjacent streets.

McCutcheon Halley was engaged by UCC to provide guidance to the wider project team concerning 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 dealt with by McCutcheon Halley on behalf of the client 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 concerning 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 several 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 site’s context adjacent to several 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 several 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 its university population, compete globally as a third-level educational facility and enhance its central role in the social, cultural and economic life of the city, region and country.

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