O’Devaney Gardens: Public Lands for Public Housing

Satellite view of O'Devaney Gardens, Dublin.
Dublin City Councillors are set to allow a development on O’Devaney Gardens that will fail people on low and middle incomes who need housing.

By Councillor John Lyons

Dublin City Council officials and councillors from a range a political parties (Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein, Labour Soc Dems, Greens and some Independents) are set to hand over a hugely valuable piece of public land, owned by you through your local authority, to a private developer.

O’Devaney Gardens is a 14 hectare sight right next to the Phoenix Park, and if developed sensibly, could provide a huge number of social and affordable housing units on site.

Unfortunately, we have a set of city council officials wedded to a pro-market way of thinking, and a set of political parties unwilling to fight this neoliberal status quo.

Bartra Capital Property Group have been selected to develop the site: over 800 units will be built yet the developer will get to sell 50% of them on the open market at who knows what kind of outrageous prices; 30% will be social and 20% will be affordable purchase.

This is a outrageous give away of public land to a private developer.

We can and must do better.

Dublin City Councillors will be asked at next month’s city council meeting to vote in favor of a section 183 disposal of the land to the developer.

We must reject this and demand a better alternative which will involve Dublin City Council’s own architects design a plan for the site and a building contractor selected to build the units we want – high quality social and affordable units available to individuals, couples and families on middle and low incomes.

Fine Gael’s Housing Minister Allows High Rise Flats on the Chivers’ Factory Site, Coolock

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.

Fine Gael have allowed the former Chiver’s Factory, Coolock, to become the location of ten-floor high rises

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.

The efforts of Independent Left Councillor John Lyons along with others on DCC have been rendered meaningless by the Fine Gael Minister for Housing.

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.

Over 3,800 children homeless is a scandal.

At the end of April the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government released its most recent homeless figures. During March 2019 there were over 3,800 children who were homeless and 2,445 adults. This represents a rise on the same period in 2018 and shows that Fine Gael’s promises (and those of their ‘independent’ allies) to make housing the test of the success of the government to have been merely shadow play.

Niamh McDonald, Independent Left candidate for Donaghmede LEA said:

The majority of those children are from one parent families, those parents are mainly women. These figures are not the entire picture, there are women and children in refuges, the hidden homeless, Direct Provision and many on the streets are not counted.
This is a generation suffering and becoming institutionalised due to no fault of their own.
This can be solved but we need to vote out those who refuse to fix the problem FG, FF & Labour.
Some seem to think if your local FF or FG Cllr gets the road fixed or gets your windows done you should vote them back in, this will not create change, everything will just stay the same.
Its up to the people to change it because the establishment currently elected won’t change as it benefits them to much.