The Greenore Hotel, built by The London and North Western Railway in the 1870s as one of the most imposing railway hotels in Ireland, and one of only a handful to be built of brick, located at Greenore Port in north Co Louth is to be demolished according to the website The El Paso Times. Apparently an article about the impending demolition has also appeared in the local newspaper.
The building is not a Protected Structure, having extraordinarily been rejected for inclusion in the county's Record of Protected Structures around 2000-2002 by Louth County Council, in spite of detailed conservation reasons being advanced to the council by the Minister's office and by the (then) Architectural Heritage Advisory Service of Dúchas as to why the building should be listed, according to An Taisce. Essentially the council ruled that this landmark historic building known to probably most people in the North East has no architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.
In 2002 Greenore Ferry Services Ltd (the Port) applied for permission to demolish the hotel (which also has parts of the associated platforms and railway infrastructure still intact), and replace it with a storage warehouse.
• The building is in a very poor and possibly dangerous condition.
• The building does not display any of the special interest qualities (architectural, historical, social, etc.) described by Dúchas’ Architectural Conservation Guidelines for Planning Authorities and has no architectural merit.
• The building has lost the graciousness of its original design and setting, which included the railway station and gardens and has little architectural or historical significance. The building is isolated in a working port area and not accessible to the public.
• The building has no close association with the village and is of no significant streetscape or visual importance to the village.
• The port of Greenore is of prime importance for the industrial development of the area and the retention of this building would compromise its future development and undermine the ability of the port to operate efficiently.
• The cost of refurbishment of the building would be prohibitive and there are no viable uses for the building consistent with its location in a working port area.
Louth County Council granted permission for its demolition and replacement, subject to a full architectural survey of the building and the salvaging of as many interior fixtures and fittings as possible, which needless to say shows in stark light the contradiction with rejecting its proposal for PS status in the first place. This was also in spite of Duchas's later submission to ABP, stating:
• James Barton, an eminent Irish Engineer who designed many railway lines, designed the building.
• The Greenore Hotel and Railway Station is of architectural interest as a good example of 19th century design and is in fact one of the few brick built railway hotels of its kind in the country.
• One side of the former railway station platform survives, as do the offices, toilets, etc., of the railway station, while the building does contain decorative plasterwork, arched niches, panelled joinery and contains a fine main staircase.
• The building’s isolation within a working port and its alleged poor state of repair has, in the view of Dúchas, nothing to do with its special architectural and historical interest.
• To facilitate the speedy movement of passengers to and from the platforms, James Barton designed moving stairways, which are described and drawn in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. These early versions of escalators would be of immense historical and technical importance if traces of them survived.
• The building is partly in use as offices at present. Landmark buildings, such as this, are often considered desirable by companies and commercial owners who appreciate the high profile, which buildings of architectural and historical quality bring.
Louth/Meath's Conservation Officer Jill Chadwick also stated in a report in 2001:
“The railway line and station are gone. The future of the port is at a crossroads. Investment is needed for its development. Since the present site area is restricted, there is a possibility that the port may move from its present location to allow for expansion. This would allow the present port location and site of the hotel to be redeveloped for tourism. I believe it would be short-sighted to allow the demolition of this structure, which would maintain a visible link to the history of the area.
If Louth County Council feel that retaining and protecting the building will place an excessive burden on the owners of the Port, temporary weather protection might be provided to halt the deterioration of the structure, pending a full investigation and report on the future of their Port and a comprehensive plan for the area. If at that time it can be shown that the retention of this structure would seriously jeopardise the development of the Port and the overall good of the community, the Council might reconsider its decision and remove the structure from the Record”.
This development would have got the go-ahead were it not for the Dublin office of An Taisce who appealed the Council's decision to An Bord Pleanála. The Bord rejected the Council's decision outright, fully holding up the inspector's report which cited the building to be "of significant architectural and historical interest. Its demolition as a consequence of the proposed development would seriously injure the amenities of the area, have a detrimental effect on the historical and architectural heritage and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area."
The inspector went on:
My conclusions are as follows: -
1. Although in a poor condition with many parts badly damaged through water ingress, the building contains attractive external features such as the entrance porch and fenestration.
2. The suggestion by Duchas and the Louth/Meath Conservation Officer that the building is of both architectural and historical interest seems reasonable.
3. The building is clearly visible from and forms part of the visual context to the public amenity area and car park along the east side of the headland at Greenore Point.
4. Although the Hotel/Station does not form a focal point at the end of Euston Street, it is part of an assemblage of buildings of architectural, historical and visual interest and which includes the lighthouse and cottage to the west of the public amenity area. These buildings are or could be integrated into a significant relationship because of their close proximity.
In the intervening years the building was still
not added to the Record, even in spite of the Inspector noting: "given that the Hotel/Station is not a listed structure, having been rejected as such by Louth County Council, it would appear that its owner irrespective of the decision on this appeal could demolish it. This would seem to be an anomaly and lacuna in the legislation."
I have yet to confirm the details of the alleged proposed demolition - it was still intact as of last week anyway.
Hope to find out more soon.