Friday, June 02, 2006

St. Cobh's Cathedral: saved from needless renovation

Some of you may recall the controversy surrounded a proposed renovation of St. Cobh's Cathedral, a classic example of gothic revival architecture, designed by one of the Pugin family.

The argument had been made by some that a change was for reasons of "liturgical requirements".

Initially the inspector had approved this request, however the most recent news is now that this request to renovate this Cathedral has been refused:


An Bord Pleanála: Board Direction
Ref: 53.214338

The submissions on this file and the Inspector's report were further considered at a Board meeting held on 31st May 2006. The Board decided, by 6 votes to 2, to refuse permission in accordance with the following reasons and considerations.


St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, is a most important example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture by the architects Pugin and Ashlin, which has retained the integrity of its original architectural treatment since final completion approximately 90 years ago. The building is of the finest quality, both in its exterior and interior, and is a protected structure of national importance. Having regard to the extent of the interventions proposed, it is considered that the proposed re-ordering of the interior would materially and adversely affect the character of the cathedral and would thereby be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, including protection of its architectural heritage.

In deciding not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to grant permission, the Board (unanimously) disagreed with the Inspector’s interpretation of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, in relation to the statutory delimitation of the powers of the Board to decide on the merits of a planning appeal concerning a protected structure, which is regularly used as a place of worship. Section 57(6) of the Act requires the Board to respect liturgical requirements, in addition to any other requirements of the Act. The Board considered that the obligation placed on it to respect liturgical requirements must be interpreted in the context of its other duties, as defined in the Act, including in respect of protection of the architectural heritage. The Board considered that the interpretation set out in the Inspector’s recommendation would limit its functions in a manner incompatible with the Act.

The Board accepted that changes to the interior arise from liturgical requirements, but considered that this does not bind it to accept this particular design solution. Having regard to the unique importance and intact character of the interior of the cathedral and to the limitations resulting from its Gothic Revival design, and taking account of the scale and impact of the proposed works on the specific character of the cathedral, the Board decided (by 6 votes to 2) that the proposed development - entailing large scale extension of the sanctuary into the cathedral nave and removal / relocation of significant elements of historic building fabric, including mosaics – would have an unacceptable impact on the cathedral and would constitute an excessive intervention in the protected structure.

Board Member __________________________ Date 1st June 2006
Karl Kent

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