So the French sports retailer Decathlon have agreed to purchase lands from Dublin City Council, next to the IKEA site north of Ballymun for roughly €4.35 million.
In a meeting of the Dublin North West Local Area Committee, Dublin City Councillors approved the sale of the lands and this now has to progress to the main monthly council meeting for full council approval. It seems likely that they’ll back the sale.
Years ago, Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL), which was a Dublin City Council-owned company tasked with the regeneration of the northern suburb, proposed that the IKEA store and lands around them should be a high-tech industrial park.
When that didn’t happen, it tried to lure in the National College of Ireland. But the college eventually located in Docklands. BRL had to search elsewhere for developments that would bring jobs to the new Ballymun.
In 2005, with IKEA looking to open a store in Dublin, the government amended the national Retail Planning Guidelines to allow big retail premises of the scale of IKEA to open in areas of urban regeneration. Ballymun was one of only two sites that qualified. (The other was in Waterford.)
Since the economic downturn and the wind-up of BRL, there has been little development in the lands south of the M50 and north of Ballymun. Much land is still derelict. It has added to the perception that the regeneration of Ballymun has been an economic failure.
Some local councillors have welcomed this move by Decathlon. This kind of “big-box retail” would deliver more local jobs, and investment in Ballymun is welcome, Fianna Fáil Councillor Paul McAuliffe has said.
But he and others have expressed concern that the council isn’t doing more to attract investment to the old shopping centre side, which is due to be pulled down in October. It makes it hard for those in Ballymun to welcome good news “when at the core of our town lies a derelict shopping centre”, he says.
Ballymun is an important neighbourhood. It has had substantial investment from the state. Yet it still struggles to advance. Areas of extreme deprivation are not going to be turned around in a short period of time. Intergenerational problems need substantive and continuous attention.
Ballymun’s location also hinders it in some ways. On the fringes of the Dublin City Council area, the suburb can be hurt by some developments across the administrative boundary in the Fingal County Council area. This is a governance issue that I will come back to in future articles.
Unlike the private sector in the United Kingdom and other EU capitals, Irish investors and developers do not have the risk appetite, imagination, or entrepreneurial drive to see the potential of investing in areas such as Ballymun, and so many other disadvantaged areas.
This is part of the economic model we operate that needs fundamental reform.