Photos by Cónal Thomas

Trucks trundle through the gates of Dublin City Council’s waste-management depot in Rathmines.

This parcel of land, off Gulistan Terrace, which includes a bring centre and a defunct ESB site, has been the subject of local debate for some time.

The council plans to sell it off to a private developer, as part of its strategy to create a super depot in Ballymun for its waste-management services.

“There’s no way that we can just sit back and let that site be sold,” says Labour Councillor Mary Freehill.

She and other local representatives are pushing for a plan that would see the Gulistan site redeveloped as a new asset for the local community, rather than a private development. 

Holding Off

Redevelopment of the Gulistan site, located just behind Rathmines village near Leinster Cricket Club, has “been on the cards since the ’90s”, says Freehill.

But when the council in 2016 ramped-up its plans to consolidate its existing depots by selling them off to fund one super depot, locals began raising concerns, she says.

As is stands, “funding from the disposal of existing depot sites is required to fund the consolidation of depots”, according to a report given to the council’s South East Area Committee on Monday.

But back in March, local councillors on the committee agreed that the Gulistan site should not be put up for sale, just yet.

This area of Rathmines is zoned a “Key District Centre” in the Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022. These centres, close to public transport, “perform an important regeneration role for local communities”, the development plan says.

Such areas, councillors –  like Freehill and Independent Ruairí McGinley – argued back in March, can work as sustainable anchors for suburban areas and, therefore, the Gulistan site should be developed in the interest of the community, providing potential community services.

At Monday’s meeting of the South East Area Committee, Labour’s Freehill put forward a motion to further ensure the Gulistan site is not disposed of in a hurry.

There are 1,405 applicants on the Housing List for area N – which covers Rathmines, Ranelagh, Rathgar and Terenure – and 270 on the transfer list, said Freehill.

Rathmines has a population of nearly 40,000, she says, but has no community centre or Health Service Executive primary-care centre, she says. (Census figures for 2016 show a population of 38,212 in the electoral districts Rathmines East A-C, and West A-F.)

“There is no way we can let a prime piece of urban land go without having planned for the need for urban renewal in the area,” says Freehill.

The council needs to address the huge shortage in public and private housing for families, single people and older people, as well, and not simply sell the site off to a private developer, says Freehill.

Local Say

Freehill says the council should embark, instead, on “a public-sector community-sector partnership”, moving towards the further regeneration of Rathmines. “The [Gulistan] site needs to be designed and it needs to be planned,” she says.

There should be a public discussion about the future of the site. “There are urban development responsibilities and the people of Rathmines have to have a say,” she says.

Independent Councillor Ruairí McGinley agrees. The site should not be disposed of yet, as “we’re too far away from the council sitting down and having a serious conversation with locals”, he says.

McGinley suggests that a public-sector development is best for the Gulistan site, whereby the central government funds any future redevelopment. Rather than, as is planned now, a private-sector development.

Michael Kelly heads up the Rathmines Initiative – a local community organisation, self-described as ” a group of individuals of differing backgrounds seeking to enhance the quality of life of the diverse community in Rathmines.” – and says that locals haven’t had enough of a say.

“As we understand it the city manager wants to offload the site,” says Kelly. “I think if that were to happen it could become a gated private community and we’d lose all possibilities for real urban renewal that might flow from that site.”

There are also requests around making the site easier to get from, and easier to get to. Kelly would like to see a pathway through the site into Rathmines village, he says. “It could really be part of the urban grain and would enhance the area.”

Fianna Fáil Councillor Claire O’Connor says locals want a walkway into Castlewood Terrace preserved, and an alternative entrance into the site found, other than solely through Gullistan.

A Blueprint

The council’s planning department has said that it would draw up a “development brief” for the Gulistan depot site and the defunct ESB site.

That’s a kind of blueprint telling possible developers what can fit on the site, and what challenges there might be with the land.

But they’ve been saying that they will do a brief for some time, says Fianna Fáil’s O’Connor.

At Monday’s meeting, councillors were told by Assistant Chief Executive for Planning Richard Shakespeare that there was no update on that front.

They also agreed Freehill’s motion that the Gulistan depot site should not be “disposed of and that the council embark on a public sector community sector partnership” for the site.

While “a report outlining the appropriate redevelopment of the existing depot network … will be brought before council”, Monday’s report to councillors said, it remains to be seen when that will happen.

Councillors have to agree to sell the site, says McGinley. “I’m certain the political support isn’t there without some decent public consultation.”

Labour’s Freehill says she’ll continue to try to have the site kept for community use. “We need to keep pushing on,” she says. “[…] It’s a prime urban site in a very important part of the city.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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