Planning and Development Act 2000
Third party observation to An Bord Pleanála
PL29N.239124

Re. application for amalgamation and change of use of Ground Floor Units 18 and 19, Block C, Smithfield Market Development, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Planning register: 4176/10
Planning authority: Dublin City Council

Applicant: Aidan Hora
Urban Frameworks, 5, Adelaide Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin

By

Vanessa Fielding
Complex Productions Ltd. The Complex Smithfield Dublin 7

25 July 2011 1

1  Introduction

1.1 This observation on behalf of the Complex relates to the granting of permission by Dublin City ouncil on 2 June 2011 for a development comprising

the amalgamation and change of use of units 18 (permitted shop) and 19 (permitted restaurant) permitted under reg. ref. no. 4830/06 to provide for a single retail unit (c. 452m sq. gross). Planning permission is also sought for signage, minor elevational changes, subsidiary alcohol sales and all ancillary site works.

It has been written in response to the First Party appeal lodged by Urban Frameworks on 28 June last.

1.2 As has been eventually acknowledged on their own appeal to An Bord Pleanála (p.5), this 1.2 planning application has actually been made on behalf of Tesco Ireland Ltd. which if a successful outcome is obtained intends to open a convenience store on the Smithfield frontage. The units under appeal are presently occupied by Complex Productions Ltd. which in 2009 established a theatre, performance space and art gallery there, thus by default fulfilling a previous planning condition regarding the provision of a cultural facility within the original Fusano development.

With the recent closure of the Lighthouse Cinema, the Complex is now the only such cultural enterprise in the entire development, one which enjoys a footfall of c. 500-800 people each week and moreover one which employs a staff of 12 and one with a full programme of events which extends well into 2012.

1.3 There are several substantive reasons why this application should be rejected in its entirety which are considered in the appeal submitted by Fresh Opportunities Ltd. We contend that irrespective of the present zoning of the units in question, the granting of permission for this development is contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of Smithfield when Chapter 7 of theDevelopment Plan is considered (‘Fostering Dublin’s Character and Culture’). We are further of the opinion that the proposed development as envisioned by the applicant will be catastrophically detrimental to the existing fragile trajectory of the area as a cultural quarter, an aspiration the planning authority has harboured from the beginnings of the redevelopment of the area over 10 years ago and one the authority continues to espouse.

1.4 This observation is structured under the following headings:

  • The HARP IAP and subsequent planning history
  • Cultural provisions of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017
  • A cultural and social dividend?

1.5 We request that the Board considers this observation in tandem with the initial Third Party appeal validated on 16 June and the subsequent First Party appeal validated on 28 June. We further request that the Board rejects outright this attempt to remove from Smithfield an existing unique vibrant cultural enterprise, one which presently occupies the spaces under appeal and one which has facilitated the maintenance of planning compliance for the development as a whole under the original 2502/99 grant of permission.

2 The HARP IAP and subsequent planning history

2.1 Introduction

2.1.1 This section of the observation examines the planning history of Smithfield in relation to the provision of cultural facilities for both residents and visitors alike. From the genesis of an Integrated Area Plan scheme in 1996, the initial HARP provisions are interrogated regarding cultural and retail policy; this is followed by a discussion of the Fusano/Kulling planning applications and the subsequent appeals regarding the development of the western side of Smithfield. The present situation regarding the occupancy of theComplex is subsequently discussed in relation to the provisions of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2016 and the ‘Draft Cultural and Creative Framework for the Smithfield Area’ which is nearing completion at the time of writing (pers. comm. Cllr. Emer Costello, DCC).

2.1.2 Depending on one’s perspective of course, the history of Smithfield has been one fraught with difficulty, disappointment and outright failure. Smithfield was initially conceived in the 1660s by the forerunners of the planning authority as a new suburb, designed to accommodate the emerging mercantile class, well away from the squalor and overcrowding of the walled city. Carved out of the area of alienated commonage, the suburb reflected ideas of renaissance town planning, with a grid of streets surrounding a formal marketplace, itself a creation of an earlier period and afforded statutory protection from the mid-fifteenth century. The very names of the new streets were taken from the much larger development initiated by the Duke of Bedford in London and when the list of initial leaseholders is examined, there was every indication that Dublin’s Smithfield would develop accordingly.

But this was not to be. The anchor tenant, the Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Ormond declined the opportunity to build his mansion on the site presently occupied by Collins Barracks. The medieval market still operated, protected by its ancient legislation (a situation echoed today when the monthly horse market is considered), just at a time when it was becoming unseemly to live cheek by jowl with noise, dung and rude commerce. A third factor contributing to the failure as a new suburb for the middle classes was the noxious presence of the tanning pits along Watling Street, the odours from which would frequently waft across the river on the southwesterly wind.

Where there was obviously no provision made for cultural uses in the 1660s, there were planning stipulations relating to issues of urban function and design which today would be articulated under the catch phrase ‘proper planning and sustainable development’. Remarkably, archaeological excavation has demonstrated a certain degree of compliance from this period in terms of building regulations and public paving, more indeed than can be ascertained today when present occupancy is examined in the context of what came from the HARP IAP and indeed what was permitted by An Bord Pleanála in 2001.

2.1.3 The modern dereliction of Smithfield can be examined in the context of the removal of its market function to the North Circular Road and the gradual erosion of the inner city since the foundation of the State. The planning authority, for its part, rather belatedly started to consider the future of Smithfield in the early 1990s and began to address the area’s problems utilising the statutory mechanism of the Integrated Area Plan. Where it cannot be denied that substantial amounts of funding were allocated (and indeed are still being allocated) to the area’s regeneration, the modern development of Smithfield is generally accepted to have been a failure. Smithfield has simply not attracted the expected footfall from Dubliners and tourists alike and the early indications of this failure were seen in the eventual closure of most of the businesses that were established on the A. & D. Wejchert development of Smithfield Village (opposite the Complex) in 1998.

The subsequent McGarry Ní Éanaigh redesign of the square provided the abstract symbolism used on the later development’s branding: the twelve 26.5m brazier masts which are rarely, if ever, lit. And behind the braziers stands the seven-storey Horan Keogan Ryan assemblage which dominates the square today, the development which was conditioned by the planning authority (and confirmed subsequently by the Board) to deliver on the cultural element of the HARP scheme.

As it happened, the planning authority did not enforce its own cultural strategy and it has been left to individuals to create their own cultural opportunities for the area.

2.1.4 We are however where we are today and it is beholden on the planning authority and indeed An Bord Pleanála to contribute to a strategy which will turn the fortunes of Smithfield around to create a vibrant urban quarter, with an appropriate mix of cultural, residential and retail as envisaged under the HARP initiative.

We submit that the granting of permission to Tesco Ireland, where the retail component of the development has been already satisfied, falls well outside the aspirations of the HARP scheme and will make little or no contribution to the crucial revitalisation of Smithfield. We further contend that the granting of permission will constitute a serious curtailment of the residential amenity of those of our neighbours who live above the Complex, an issue which has not been addressed either by the applicant(s) or indeed by the planning authority.

2.2 The HARP IAP

2.2.1 The cultural provisions of the Fusano/Kulling development were ostensibly considered under the terms of the HARP (Historic Area Rejuvenation Project) scheme which was launched on the back of an Integrated Area Framework Plan in 1996. The aim of the HARP scheme was to enhance the quality of life for residents, business and visitors around the Smithfield and the Mary Street/Henry Street areas of Dublin; the objectives were stated thus:

  • To encourage private development on derelict/vacant sites for residential and/or commercial uses
  • To ensure investment by promoting the area as an attractive and viable enterprise and residential location
  • To provide play facilities, upgrade open spaces and recreational facilities.
  • To address the provision of training and education in the area
  • To promote the conservation of historic buildings
  • To upgrade the public areas and promote an urban space at Smithfield

As will be argued below, a central tenet of the HARP initiative was a cultural rejuvenation of the area, one which would integrate with the existing commercial, retail and residential framework and indeed with any such development proposed, including the one presently under appeal. It is now beholden on the Board to consider whether the development of a Tesco convenience store on the site in question is in fulfillment of the strictures of the IAP. The available evidence would suggest that it is not. Indeed the applicant acting for Tescoappears quite adamant that the cultural provision conditioned by the planning authority has nothing whatsoever to do with him.

2.2.2 In 1994 the then Dublin Corporation submitted proposals to the Department of the Environment for the rejuvenation of the northwest inner city area, to include Smithfield. The proposals were accepted under an operational programme targeting selected urban regeneration projects in five Irish cities. The 1996 HARP framework plan was thus the IAP designed to regenerate the Smithfield area, where an IAP seeks to maximise both strands of physical and socio-economic renewal together. This Plan had a number of antecedents including the Dublin City Development Plan, the Urban Renewal Tax Incentives 1986/1994, the Dublin Transport Initiative 1995 and an outline HARP Plan submitted to the Department of the Environment in 1994. This approach had gained favour over previous urban renewal methodologies that had focused on site-based tax incentives to encourage physical renewal, while failing to generate a consequent socio-economic renewal.

Subsequent to the introduction of the 1998 Urban Renewal Scheme and Guidelines for the preparation of Integrated Area Plans, it was determined that the HARP framework plan met all the criteria required of an IAP. It was believed that the adoption of the plan as an IAP would help secure the success of all of its strategies.

The problems identified in Smithfield were many: the loss of the area’s traditional activities, the rate of vacancy and underutilization of sites and buildings, a poor urban environment, high rates of unemployment and lack of private or state investment were cited as contributing factors to the area’s decline to be addressed by the IAP. Smithfield did undoubtedly contain a large public space but this was considered poor in terms of urban domain qualities (despite the survival of building fabric dating from the late-seventeenth century); it was used as a surface car park.

2.2.3 An initial step to encourage more private investment was through a flagship project, namely the redevelopment of Smithfield’s public space as the largest civic space in the city. ‘Smithfield Plaza’ was completed in 2000 following an international design competition in 1997. A mixed-use development, including a 185m high city viewing platform on top of the former Jameson distillery chimney stack and a number of other tourism based facilities were completed in 1998 on the eastern side of the ‘Plaza’ where the mixed use development under discussion was constructed on the western side. This was permitted (on appeal) on the understanding that it would deliver the substantial cultural dividend promised with the IAP. It was to provide more local cultural and entertainment facilities in addition to more retail outlets.

Private investors and developers, benefiting from tax incentives, have been the key drivers of the physical renewal of the Smithfield area. Job creation through construction and new services within the new developments, and limited community gain from developers, the City Council, in the form of social housing and a Community Centre close to Smithfield, were to have been the main socio-economic benefits for the local community.

The IAP found that the HARP area was isolated from both the conventional and avant-garde cultural life of the city with very few art galleries, no state-sponsored art institutions and precious little public sculpture in the area. Potential was recognised in the plans to convert Collins Barracks into the decorative arts division of the National Museum, the amenity value of the Smithfield marketplace and the now departed Ormond Multimedia Centre on Ormond Quay. The Plan also recognised the central importance of community-based expression and realised that any future cultural innovation must consider the integration with the local community.

The Plan found that despite its proximity to tourist attractions and routes, the HARP area has failed to develop a significant tourism sector. Reasons for this included a lack of integration into mainstream tourist routes, few ancillary facilities such as hotels, a perception that the area was unsafe and poor standards of the public domain in particular and urban design in general.

2.2.4 One of the key aims of the HARP Plan was to regenerate the area in a sustainable manner. In order to do this, it was not only necessary to physically rejuvenate the area but also stimulate social and economic regeneration. Economically the HARP area west of Capel Street was reliant on fruit and vegetable importing and distribution, constituting 30% of commercial activity whilst retail and merchants comprised 25%. Yet other parts of the area were seriously under-performing, as the economic base of small-scale, labour-intensive industry which previously sustained the community, has been eroded. This contributed to a 22.7% decline in population in the area in the late 1980s.

2.2.5 The ‘Arts and Culture’ section of the HARP document opens with the following preamble

The quality of cultural and artistic activities helps sustain the public life of cities and plays an increasingly important economic function. Cities compete internationally and investment is attracted by factors beyond the normal economic costs of labour and rent. Dublin is now [August 1996] renowned for the energy and vitality of its arts and cultural sector which plays an important role in how the city is perceived abroad.

Unfortunately the arts venues referred to in this section, the Ormond Multi-Media Centre and the Lotts Warehouse Project, cultural bodies with the full support of the Corporation, have all gone by the wayside, creating a vacuum that has been filled by the Complex.

The document lends credence to the value of Community Arts, ‘now universally recognized as being of central importance in encouraging local communities to creatively “tell the story for themselves” ‘. The goal in this instance was to ‘nurture developments which are firmly rooted in the area and frequently involve partnerships with the Local Authority or other institutions with a community set development brief’. Furthermore, the ‘development of community arts and cultural initiatives can also generate local job provision and can broaden and enrich the local educational experience’. Again, this is central to the ethos of the Complex, an organization which has nurtured the community arts since its inception.

The importance of performance venues in the HARP area is also established, with reference to the now defunct Lotts Warehouse Project, where a central feature of the project is ‘the provision of Ireland’s first purpose built Theatre in the Round’. It was anticipated that many medium-sized theatre companies which currently fail to include Dublin in their touring schedules would avail of such a venue. Unbeknownst to the developers of Block C, a Theatre in the Round was created in the space now occupied by the Complex. Such companies have availed of the space and will continue to do so. The space remains a unique theatre venue in the city, one that has already incorporated a ‘three-way collaboration between the arts, business and community interests’.

The Objectives for Arts and Culture were to inter alia target the preparation of an integrated approach to the development of Arts and Culture in the HARP area. This is underway at the moment and where the closure of the Lighthouse was undoubtedly a catalyst, the Complex remains central to the provision of the HARP objectives in this regard. Where other submissions to the Board have shown that the premises and the location are unsuitable for an off licence anchored to a convenience store, we in the Complex have hopefully demonstrated that the spaces are uniquely suitable for the provision and delivery of the HARP objectives.

2.2.6 The HARP area has experienced much change since the preparation of an integrated Plan in the 1990s. Enormous amounts of EU, state and private funds have been injected into the area creating both physical/environmental and socio-economic/community benefits, yet there exists a downside with major disappointments also. In particular, the cultural element of the HARP project has been absent, with seemingly little appetite on the part of the developers to fulfill the conditions of their permissions and indeed until recently, less appetite on the part of the planning authority to enforce those conditions. Should the Tesco appeal be successful, another nail will be driven into the coffin of community and performance arts in Smithfield.

2.3 The Fusano/Kulling application

2.3.1 The initial applications for the western side of Smithfield can be found in the planning  registry of Dublin City Council under the 2528/99 registration, which relates to the Kulling development north of Thundercut Alley and under 2502/99 registration which covers the Fusano application for the remainder of the site, including the units under appeal. Both were appealed to the Board under PL29N.121294 (Kulling) and PL29N.121296 (Fusano) which generated a single oral hearing into the case.

2.3.2 The genesis of the Fusano/Kulling development has been treated in Simon Kelly’s recent publication on the post-2008 woes of the city’s property speculators, Breakfast With Anglo (Penguin Ireland, 2010, 72-86). As one of the instigators of the development, Kelly’s account is of some interest when the attendant publicity, interviews and reviews are considered. The site was enormous by any standards, extending over the entire block between Smithfield and Queen Street, replacing an area of undoubted urban decay and dereliction, though one with some surviving historic built fabric and significant archaeological survival dating from the original medieval marketplace. Part of the Fusano application (that part of the development south of the reinvention of Thundercut Alley, a linear seventeenth- century access from Smithfield to Queen Street which was replaced by a curved street, aping a similar urban intervention in Temple Bar) was subsequently taken over by the Kelly family’s holding company, Redquartz Smithfield Limited, the ownership of which passed to NAMA on 25 March last on the appointment of a receiver.

2.3.3 In the pre-planning discussions with the planning authority there was much made of the significance of the provisions of the HARP IAP, with several options explored for the provision of a cultural element to the scheme. Among the options discussed were a Museum of Dublin and ironically, given the rather pedestrian nature of the development, a museum of Dublin’s architectural heritage. What was eventually agreed upon was a Museum of Childhood, an institution that one appellant to the Board predicted would never see the light of day. A new public space, called Museum Square was to balance the open area in front of the then Chief O’Neill’s on the western side of Smithfield.

2.3.4 The proposal as appealed to the Board comprised 58,781m sq. of a mixed 2.3.4 development of which 4195m sq. would be occupied by the Museum of Childhood (or Children’s Museum), with a further 3376.75m sq. dedicated to a theatre/museum. There were several good reasons to locate cultural facilities such as these in Smithfield. The Inspector was particularly taken with Section 8.5.0 of Chapter 8 of the 1999 Development Plan which introduced the concept of ‘nodal spaces’, where it became an objective of the then Corporation to develop a sequence of such spaces in the city centre to be linked by a network of pedestrian priority routes. The purpose of this was to promote ‘a sense of place’ within the city, to ‘enable people to orient themselves’. Smithfield was along one such route, linking O’Connell Street to Collins Barracks, with the cultural institutions, cafes and bars on the square providing an obvious stop-off point.

2.3.5 The cultural element of the scheme was never delivered by the developers, despite their being the beneficiary of considerable tax breaks that were available after Charlie McCreevy reversed the recommendations of the Bacon Report in the 2002 Budget. As there was little pressure exerted by the planning authority to fulfill the conditions eventually imposed by the Board (PL29N.121296), the units earmarked for cultural use remained vacant, with many applications for change of use brought to the planning authority, almost on an annual basis.

2.3.6 The development of the Lighthouse Cinema was welcomed as a new initiative for the area, one which would bring footfall to Smithfield which would support the provision of cafes, bars and possibly other small-scale initiatives. It was seen at the time that Smithfield did indeed have the potential to become another Temple Bar, a second chance perhaps to develop a cultural quarter untainted by stag parties and super-pubs.

2.3.7 When the total floor space of the Lighthouse and the Complex are considered, both come close to achieving the cultural space agreed with the planning authority and the Board under the Fusano proposal. The Lighthouse has now closed down however the Complex remains open for business. A successful appeal by Tesco will obviously result in the closure of the Complex and the negation of all that has been achieved over the past three years of its operation. The provision of a Tesco in Smithfield, where the retail component of the original grant of planning has already been satisfied, cannot be considered to be in the best interests of proper planning and sustainable development.

3 The cultural provisions of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017

3.1 Where the HARP IAP established a statutory mechanism for the provision of a cultural policy for Smithfield, Chapter 7 of theDevelopment Plan, ‘Fostering Dublin’s Character and Culture’ is equally a crucial document to be considered in the context of the present appeal.

3.2 The chapter can be quoted at length, its policies and objectives interrogated and analysed to the nth degree in support of the Complex’s continued occupancy of its premises on Smithfield. It should not be necessary to point the Board towards some of the paragraphs that have a direct relevance to what the Complex is achieving in the city, achievements which are facilitated by the unique nature of the space it occupies.

3.3 It is however worth emphasising the City Council’s provisions regarding the protection and enhancement of the city’s cultural assets. Policy FC8 for example stresses the facilitation of the provision of fit for purpose, sustainable infrastructure in the city centre, suitable for all ages and accessible to all living, working or visiting the city. Policy FC9 goes further ‘to support a sustainable form of cultural provision founded and managed within a community context dedicated to inclusion, innovation and excellence’. Furthermore, Policy FC13 articulates an intention to protect and support the city’s existing cultural assets by ‘facilitating the enhancement and/or growth of existing cultural spaces, including performance and entertainment spaces, while protecting the existing amenities in the area’ [our emphasis].

3.4 Of direct relevance to the present appeal is the provision for cultural hubs and quarters, where Smithfield is identified as an emerging ‘cultural cluster’, the development of which the City Council will ‘continue to support’.

We submit that irrespective of Tesco’s aspirations in the Complex’s specific direction, that the provision of a generic multinational supermarket in a zone so earmarked for cultural use cannot be said to comply with the sustainable development of Smithfield as outlined by Chapter 7. Moreover, the profits generated from the Smithfield operation will only serve to further enrich Tesco’s shareholders abroad, while at the same time undoubtedly contributing to the area’s cultural impoverishment.

3.5 With regard to the proper planning and sustainable development of Smithfield as a cultural hub in the city, we wish to refute some of the assertions made in Aidan Hora’s appeal to the Board dated 28 June last.

The units under appeal are presently zoned for retail and restaurant use and there has been an acceptance on the part of the planning authority that the Complex’s presence is not unauthorised, as art is sold in the gallery space and food and drink are occasionally available for consumption on the premises. Were the Complex to constitute an unauthorised development, it is likely the planning authority would have instigated a successful enforcement order against it and it would have closed by now. As it happens, our openings have been attended and indeed have been launched by Lord Mayors, City Councillors and Dáil Deputies alike. Our public seminars have been attended by senior planning officials, who have indeed made valuable contributions to the debate (The Urban Party). It is unreasonable for Aidan Hora to imply that such people would wish to damage their reputations by associating with those of us in the Complex who so blatantly show our disregard for the planning system by turning up for work each morning.

For the record, the windows of the Complex are only blacked out when there is a theatre performance or rehearsals are underway. For most of the summer both spaces are in use displaying art works which obviously require as much natural light as possible. Within the smaller space (not subject to this appeal) there is always something going on as is evident through the large windows facing Smithfield and the smaller public space to the north. It is difficult to see how Tesco could strongly contribute to the ‘vitality and vibrancy’ of what Mr. Hora refers to as ‘Smithfield Square’, when the proposal involves the removal of the Complex from the spaces in question.

4 A cultural and social dividend?

4.1 The present site of the Complex was chosen initially for its large double-height space which would facilitate a new type of theatre in the city, with the adjoining space (not part of the present appeal) being ideal for a small art gallery, with large windows opening onto Smithfield itself. The Complex is the only live arts space in the north west inner city. The people of this area of Dublin (the HARP area and beyond) are entitled to their own arts centre. The Complex is open plan and deliberately versatile, allowing alternative ways of staging performances and embracing the mix of arts disciplines within the one venue. It is unique to Dublin and offers the only option to the RDS which is outside the city centre and too expensive to hire for most arts companies. The Complex is therefore catering for a niche market in the city’s arts. This is in line with venues in other European capital cities.

The activities of the Complex are fully within the spirit and the objectives of both the HARP IAP and the Dublin City Development Plan.Where both documents obviously support retail usage, it must be argued that there is no shortage of convenience stores in the area. Indeed it must be said that there is no shortage of Tescos in the area.

4.2 Where the Complex is presently operating without a lease, there is a substantial paper trail regarding our attempts to acquire same from the previous owners and now from Savills, who we believe are now managing the property portfolio of the former owners on behalf of NAMA. We are, and always have been, in a position to pay a cultural rent for the premises and we note in this regard the commitment in the current programme for government to oblige NAMA to deliver a cultural and social dividend on the properties in its possession.

We believe this to be a specific planning issue, one which the Board can be expected to engage with.

4.3 The Complex is run by artists, who produce their own original work as well as overseeing the programme. This is a feature of the space and characterises its unique spirit, thus ensuring the high quality of the work presented. The Artistic Director is an experienced professional theatre director with a recognised track record. A total staff of twelve are based in The Complex, five of whom occupy Community Employment scheme places created by FÁS for Complex Productions Ltd. through the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and one Jobs’ Initiative position organised through PENN. Should Tesco create 16 new jobs, this will be at the expense of the existing jobs in the Complex and doubtless those existing jobs at Fresh and the other local stores which will find it difficult to compete with Tesco’s prices.

4.4 This year the programme has comprised some notable events such as Photo Ireland,  Vantastival’s launch, the Urban Party, Milk and Cookies, new Irish play ‘One Waiting Room’, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, DIT’s final year design exhibition, Slam Poets, NCAD and our own theatre production of ‘Iron’ and our own exhibition ‘Couple’. The Gaiety School of acting and the Dublin Aerialists have based much of their training in the Complex. The rest of the year is booked with an interesting mix including well renowned companies such as Barabbas, The Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival, and Devise and Conquer’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A further DIT exhibition, a Winter Solstice, the Dublin Circus Project, the Wheelchair Association/NCAD exhibition and the NWIC Network forum are also planned, together with an exciting evening for Culture Night in September featuring band Mob Fandango. The Complex will also produce a new theatre show of ‘On the Batter’ by playwright Anthony Goulding, originally from O’Devaney Gardens, and a new visual arts exhibition ‘Shul’ showing works by resident artist Roger O’Neill, also from Dublin 7.

‘Iron’ was critically extremely well received with reviews on RTE 1’s The View and a four star rating in most of the daily and weekend papers. This raised the profile of the Complex considerably and raised our credibility in the arts world and with funders. It will encourage other practitioners to stage work in Smithfield.

Complex Youth Theatre will start in September 2011 led by Anthony Goulding for young people aged between 14 and 19 years, with weekly Saturday morning workshops and a production in May 2012. The venue is a host venue to a number of community events such as Stoneybatter Youth Initiative, the Simon Community and IDEA.

Tesco, according to Aidan Hora, will strongly contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of ‘Smithfield Square’. We simply ask how this will be achieved, given his unwillingness to accept the planning authority’s cultural condition on the granting of planning permission.

4.5 The Complex attracts an average footfall of 500-800 people per week. Many of these people would not come into Smithfield except to visit the Complex. It should also be noted that many of them stay for periods of 3-7 hours. The footfall is expected to rise to 1000 people per week by the end of 2011. This benefits many of the local businesses such as Fresh, Christophe’s Bistro, The Dice Bar, Cobblestone, No 6, Go Car, Cinnamon, Gabrielle Hairdressers, Block T, Form Graphic Design, Manor Hardware DIY, ND Electrical, Centra, the florists and Drink.ie on Manor Street, the Spar and pharmacy on the Quays, and the LUAS and the market stalls on Fridays.

It is hoped to expand upstairs to make use of the 11,500 square feet on the first floor that has been vacant for nearly 10 years, spaces earmarked for cultural use under the Fusano grant of permission. A proper arts centre can then be created here on a sustainable level. Should Tesco be successful in their appeal, these spaces (which are only presently accessible via the Complex) will remain vacant.

4.6 The opening of Generator Hostel in July is bringing in footfall to Smithfield. The profile of its clients is compatible with that of the Complex. Tourism is a major industry and culture has been identified as an essential feature of our identity abroad. In order for this to be promoted, an innovative creative hub such as the Complex, producing new and original work alongside a programme of high quality arts (with a two year proven record of success), and an incubation space for emerging artists, needs to be supported and maintained. The Complex is open, running and creating a buzz, it contributes to Smithfield’s sense of uniqueness in Dublin. The provision of yet another Tesco will only serve to dilute further this singular sense of place.

The Complex has been supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Sport, and Dublin City Council. Ministers Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Rabbitte, Deputies Paschal Donoghue, Joe Costello and Councillors Emer Costello, Mannix Flynn and Ray McAdam have publicly declared support for The Complex. Dublin City Council’s Cultural Committee voted overwhelmingly to support it. More importantly perhaps the people of Smithfield have come out in support with hundreds of emails and Facebook endorsements.

People have expressed a wish for the Complex to remain where it is; they do not see the point of having another Tesco imposed on them. This appears to be especially true for those who have bought apartments over Block C, many of whom have expressed the opinion that they had bought within what was sold as a cultural hub. We question how the provision of a convenience store with unregulated delivery hours through a narrow alley to the rear of the Complex will contribute to the residential amenity they presently enjoy.

4.7 In conclusion, we trust the Board will consider this observation on the appeal submitted by Urban Frameworks on 28 June last and reject outright the imposition of a Tesco convenience store and off licence on an existing cultural institution, one which makes a real contribution to what Smithfield can become.

Vanessa Fielding