By John Lyons
The Fine Gael pro-developer planning system in action: we on Dublin City Council rezoned the old Chivers’ factory site in Coolock from industrial to residential in October 2017 on the advice of the following assessment from DCC’s planners:
‘It is acknowledged that this unit has been vacant for a significant period of time and that the site may not have future potential as an industrial factory type unit. Give the location of the site, particular adjacent to the Santry River and conservation area, and current access off a residential street, a residential redevelopment of the site is considered appropriate in principle.’
Myself and all other North Central area councillors rezoned the land to allow for residential development but we were promised affordable housing and sensible density: 350 affordable units at reasonable heights.
The developer briefed local councillors and held meetings in the local community to inform people of their plans: 350 units at appropriate heights of no more than five storeys.
Fine Gael, however, made two significant changes to the planning system during this time, namely the fast-tracking Strategic Housing Development process which facilitates developers building more than 100 units by-passing the local authority as the planning authority and going straight to An Bord Plenala, which leaves no room for appeal once a planning decision has been reached.
The second change to the planning system was the issuing of new departmental guidelines on building heights, released in December 2018 which totally ripped up our City Development Plan regulations on heights and opened the door to developers to lodge planning applications involving outrageous new heights, like the one at the Chivers’ site.
When we were presented with the proposal, the idea was that the developer would build four apartment blocks, none of which would be more than five stories high. Now, the developers, Platinum, have announced that the maximum height of the apartment blocks will be ten stories high. This has come about as a result of the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, removing height restrictions on plans, rendering our efforts to ensure a sustainable and reasonable development meaningless.
It is a very poor planning decision, allowing blocks of apartments eight and nine storeys high in a low-rise residential area.
Yet the only recourse available to anyone not happy with the decision is a judicial review in the courts, which can only challenge how the decision was reached and can costs tens of thousands of euros.
Fine Gael is quite clearly allowing Dublin to be shaped by the interests of private capital, and to hell with the communities.