Planning permission for proposed ‘world class’ U2 visitor centre expires

Planning permission for proposed ‘world class’ U2 visitor centre expires

The five-year planning permission for the proposed “world class” U2 visitor centre and exhibition space in Dublin’s docklands has officially expired. Initially lodged in 2018 by U2’s firm, MHEC Ltd, and businessman Paddy McKillen Snr’s company, Golden Brook Ltd, the project had secured planning permission from Dublin City Council in 2019. The ambitious plans aimed to transform Hanover Quay into a major attraction, drawing an estimated 390,000 U2 fans to Dublin annually.

The visitor centre was designed to house a vast array of U2 memorabilia, including old guitars, performance outfits, and other paraphernalia from the band’s storied history. The project garnered significant support from various stakeholders, including Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Chamber of Commerce, and the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). Tim Fenn, CEO of the IHF, praised the project, stating it would offer a new and innovative tourism experience, enhancing Dublin’s reputation as a vibrant cultural destination.

Dublin City Council’s planners also commended the centre’s design by award-winning architects ODAA, describing it as a “striking and innovative contemporary building” that would enhance one of the city’s most prominent locations. Despite these accolades, no construction work has commenced at Hanover Quay since the planning permission was granted.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council confirmed that a “Commencement Notice” required to start construction was never submitted. Consequently, the applicants did not pay the €225,647 in planning contributions stipulated as a condition of the permission. With no commencement notice submitted, no invoice for development contributions was issued.

Despite the lack of physical progress, plans for the U2 Visitor Centre are reportedly still in motion. To move forward, U2’s firm will need to submit a new planning application. Given that U2 revised their plans in 2018 to address planners’ concerns, the timeframe for this new application could be relatively short. Notably, there is no option for a third-party appeal to An Bord Pleanála regarding the docklands site.

The expiration of the planning permission comes two years after U2’s main firm, Not Us Ltd, bought out McKillen Snr’s Golden Brook Ltd, their partner in the visitor centre scheme. On February 14, 2022, Not Us Ltd acquired Golden Brook Ltd for €232,283. Financial records indicate that the firm’s bank loan of €1 million and McKillen’s loan of €800,430 were fully repaid upon the acquisition. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen each hold a 25% share in Not Us Ltd.

The delay in the project’s progress can be partly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted tourism-related projects worldwide. During this period, many such initiatives were either paused or mothballed due to the uncertainty surrounding the global tourism industry.

In 2023, U2 members focused much of their energy on their successful Las Vegas residency at the Sphere, where they sold 663,000 tickets. This commitment likely diverted attention and resources away from the Dublin project.

A spokesman for MHEC Ltd confirmed that work on the visitor centre is ongoing but declined to provide further details. The current status of the project remains uncertain, and it is unclear whether the acquisition of Golden Brook Ltd marks the end of McKillen’s involvement or merely a restructuring of the joint venture.

As the planning permission has now expired, the next steps for the U2 Visitor Centre will depend on the submission and approval of a new planning application. The project’s future hinges on navigating these bureaucratic processes and addressing any remaining logistical and financial challenges.

The proposed U2 visitor centre holds the potential to become a significant cultural and tourism landmark in Dublin. However, the expiration of the initial planning permission underscores the complexities and challenges inherent in bringing such ambitious projects to fruition. The coming months will be crucial in determining whether the vision for a “world class” U2 visitor centre will finally become a reality.

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