It is up to the government to intervene to make sure an agreement for 900 social and affordable housing units in Poolbeg doesn’t unravel, said Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan.
“I feel the onus is really on the department [of housing] to deliver for all parties on the other side,” he said, at Monday’s monthly meeting of the full council at City Hall.
In May last year, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and councillors agreed to put a line in the plan for the Poolbeg Strategic Development Zone that the developer had to make sure there were 900 social and affordable units on the land – after which councillors passed the scheme.
Central legislation only sets out provisions for 10 percent social housing as part of developments, so this line was always going to “vulnerable” if it were appealed to An Bord Pleanala, said Keegan. (The development is to have an estimated 3,500 homes, so 900 would be more than 25 percent of those.)
Keegan said it is “a matter of very serious concern” that the NAMA-appointed receiver for the site has now appealed the provision.
Once they had the floor on Monday, councillors talked a lot about “trust” and “compromise”. Many councillors had wanted more than that 900 social and affordable homes, said Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello. But they had settled for less, because they were told this was workable.
Labour’s Dermot Lacey said councillors had believed the “solemn word of a cabinet minister” (at the time Fine Gael Minister Simon Coveney) that it would be 900 units. “Nothing less than that is acceptable.”
Fianna Fáil’s Frank Kennedy – and others – said that the agreement on this was one of the best things they thought they had achieved on the council.
“Personally, I feel quite foolish,” said Kennedy. He questioned what this would mean going forward – how, for example, they could again to trust what the minster said, or what the council’s chief executive said.
The South Dublin Quietway
“There has to be a community buy-in for this,” says Fine Gael Councillor Paddy Smyth.
Smyth is still trying to progress his proposed quietway through South Dublin suburbs – a cycling and pedestrian route that would run 6.5 kilometres from Donnybrook to Kimmage away from main roads.
The next stage? Streets audits to gauge local feeling.
In March 2016, the council tendered for a study on how to create Smyth’s proposed cycling corridor. Following a now-notorious public meeting and jumps in the estimated cost – from €325,000 to €1.2 million to just under €1.4 million – the quietway’s future looked uncertain.
Council Senior Engineer Christopher Manzira says the council is still committed to the project. In the coming months, it plans to do street audits of the areas through which the route could pass.
The idea, says Fine Gael’s Smyth, came from a conversation with Bronwen Thornton, development director of Walk 21, a pedestrian advocacy group established in England in 2000, who visited Dublin in January.
These audits involve “interviews with residents and street users on an individual basis”, the report notes. “This would most likely achieve wider local consultation.” The audits would cost around €15,000.
To get them started, though, the transport department must get the approval of the councillors on the South East Area Committee in May, when a “detailed presentation” is on their agenda.
Fine Gael’s Smyth is confident the councillors will approve the plan. “The main criticism to date has been the lack of public consultation,” says Smyth. “And what we’ll be voting on is funding for more public consultation.”
That’s why he put forward a motion at the council’s monthly meeting to support and endorse “the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement” and commit the council “to discontinue all business contracts it has with Hewlett-Packard, both HP Inc. (PCs and printers), and Hewlett Packard Enterprise”.
The company “provides and operates much of the technology infrastructure that Israel uses to maintain its system of apartheid and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people”, he said, in his motion – which the majority of councillors backed.
But Chief Executive Owen Keegan said he has legal responsibility for all procurement, not councillors. And he has to comply with procurement rules – and there are limited grounds for exclusions.
So, he said, “I do not propose to implement a procurement boycott” based on the motion, as the legal advice was that if he did, he would be in breach of procurement rules.