Current situation

In August 2021, the Commissioners for Public Works applied for an extension of the planning permission granted in September 2016. This application was refused in October 2021, on the grounds that no works had commenced (a pre-requisite for allowing an extension).

More details are available from Dublin City Council.

See also: New application, October 2022, claiming to incorporate the condition regarding the real tennis court.

History of the application

September 2016: Decision from An Bord Pleanála

An Bord Pleanála have issued their decision, affirming the grant of permission but with an additional condition regarding the Real Tennis Court:

The developer shall submit a detailed proposal to the planning authority for the temporary re-instatement of the penthouse galleries and any other essential features required for playing Real Tennis matches. The temporary structures shall be robust and durable and designed in a manner which allow for efficient on-site assembly, dismantling and storage. The entrance door which would be located in the playing wall should be designed so as to be flush with this wall and any other openings in the playing wall shall be omitted. These details shall be agreed in writing with the planning authority before development commences.

Reason: In the interest of cultural, sporting and architectural heritage.

The IRTA strongly welcomes this aspect of the decision, and looks forward to the people of Ireland being able to play and enjoy Real Tennis, and witness part of our sporting heritage through visiting the building.

The inspector's report notes that the Earlsfort Terrace court is “the only building of its type in Ireland”, and writes that “its full restoration to a fit for purpose Real Tennis Court is an honourable ambition”. The report also notes that: A large number of observations from Ireland and around the world raised concerns in relation to the impact of the works on the Real Tennis Building. Many thanks to all who made such observations. As a result, we are hopeful that Real Tennis will, before too long, be played in Dublin again.

The IRTA has written to the relevant bodies re-affirming our eagerness to work with them to bring this project to a successful conclusion.


An Bord Pleanála links

29 August 2016: IRTA submits further information to An Bord Pleanála

Further to our appeal, the applicant (the Office of Public Works) submitted further information, and we received a letter from An Bord Pleanála notifying us that, "in the particular circumstances of this appeal, it is appropriate in the interests of justice" that the IRTA make further submissions or observations. Continuing to work with the same planning consultants, we made the suggested further submission:

We now await An Bord Pleanála's decision, which we expect to issue before 20th September.

27 May 2016: Coverage in the Irish Examiner

Detailed article in The Irish Examiner by Dr Paul Rouse, sports historian at UCD:

The article concludes:

That an Irish Real Tennis Association exists and that its members travel out of Ireland to play emphasises both their commitment to their sport and the challenges they face to live that commitment. Their sporting world is one that does not make the newspapers or does not drive content and advertising on websites — but this is an irrelevance. Indeed, it underlines the essential issue at hand here.

The antiquity of their sport is obvious, its place is Irish society is genuine and established, and their need for a place to play is undeniable. Their rights should be vindicated.

18 May 2016: IRTA lodges appeal with An Bord Pleanála

The IRTA, in conjunction with a planning consultant, has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála:

21 April 2016: DCC grants permission

Dublin City Council (DCC) has granted permission to the OPW for their plans, which include using the Dublin real tennis court for exhibitions. There is now a four-week period during which we can appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála (ABP). We are in discussions with a planning consultant as to how best to proceed. ABP will have to take into account the large number of excellently written submissions from the public to DCC. Thank you all for your support so far; we'll keep you posted.

31 March 2016: Nearly sixty objections received by DCC relating to Real Tennis court

Along with the IRTA's own observation, nearly sixty objections to the conversion of the Real Tennis Court to an exhibition space were lodged with Dublin City Council from all around the world.

31 March 2016: IRTA submits observation to Dublin City Council

The IRTA lodges an objection with DCC relating to the conversion of Dublin's Real Tennis Court building into an exhibition space:

26 February 2016: Office of Public Works applies to turn Real Tennis court into exhibition space

Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW) has sought permission for the development of a Children’s Science Museum at a large site which includes Dublin’s real tennis court. Under the OPW’s plan, the court would be the venue for the museum’s temporary (i.e., in almost constant use, but frequently changing) exhibitions. The application for planning permission states that

The renovated Real Tennis Building can also act as an independent event space with the proposed restoration works offering the possibility of the sport of Real Tennis … being played on the court once again.

The proposed plans state that the tennis court, a Protected Structure, should be “restored”, and they do include repairing the limestone floors and walls. However, the plans would fail to bring the court back to playable condition:

  1. there is no provision for the construction of penthouse walls / penthouses (none now present);

  2. the plan includes a new doorway in the main wall, between the tambour and the net;

  3. it is unclear whether the floor / walls would be finished to a playable tennis surface.

Also, the playing of real tennis has not been specifically included as a proposed use of the court.


Link to planning application

If you’d like to view the full application, it’s on the Dublin City Council website: