“I think it’s disgraceful,” says Mary Carney.
She is stood on the island between lanes of traffic on Kevin Street on Friday morning. Her hands are clasped around a small home-made sign: “DALATA NO RESPECT FOR RESIDENTS”.
“Disgraceful,” says Rita Kane, another resident. She says she’s been woken up for weeks now by the hammer and clatter of construction at the nearby Maldron Hotel.
“Absolutely disgraceful,” says Kathleen Monaghan. She points to the hotel, which looks nearly done. This morning, 19 construction workers come and go from the building, which looms over her small house behind it.
All three women have lived in an enclave between Cathedral View Walk and Cathedral View Court for 38 years.
Lately, it’s been noisier than ever as the opening date for the hotel nears, they say. “We’ve been woken up every morning at 6 o’clock,” says Monaghan.
Dublin City Council Press Office says the council is looking into complaints about noisy construction here on Kevin Street.
But it’s not just an issue here, and some councillors say it’s time that there were stricter ways to enforce rules for excessive noise and out-of-hours building.
Louder and Louder
The area around Kevin Street Upper is pockmarked with building sites.
Builders are at work on the nearby Hyatt Hotel in the Coombe. There’s an extension to St Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School coming along, too.
Opposite this, there is work still underway on the Maldron Hotel, where 29 girders lie next to metal fencing, wooden planks and scaffolding as a Panda waste truck makes its way down the dusty road, passing two cherry pickers parked on the pavement.
“Jesus don’t get knocked down, Mary!” shouts a local resident, come to join this morning’s protest. Mary Carney navigates around a delivery van that is backing out of the hotel site and onto the road, as she heads home for more placards.
Monaghan and Kane lead the way to their homes behind the hotel.
“It’s like we’re no one,” says Monaghan. She point out her back door to her garden, which is now overlooked by a dozen hotel rooms.
“Them lights are on 24/7,” she says, as she points to the hotel’s stairwell and pulls on her e-cigarette.
Back on Kevin Street, more residents have gathered to discuss the noise the night before.
Neither Dalata Group, which owns Maldron Hotels, nor cosntruction company JJ Rhatigan have responded to queries asking about out-of-hours construction and excessive noise levels at Kevin Street.
Elsewhere in the city, residents have complained about noisy and stressful construction, and work going on out of hours.
In the Docklands, residents said they struggled with late-night construction, which ran until 4am some nights, around the Mayor Street area. That situation is better lately, says independent Councillor Christy Burke.
Dublin City Council, as the planning authority, is responsible in for making sure construction companies follow the rules set out when they’re granted planning permission for a development.
In the case of the Maldron Hotel on Kevin Street, the council refused planning permission in June 2015 for the hotel but this decision was overturned by An Bord Pleanála (ABP ) in November 2015.
Builders can work on the site in Kevin Street between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Friday, and between 8am and 2pm on Saturdays, the planning permission says. That’s “in order to safeguard the residential amenities of property in the vicinity”.
Every construction site in the city has to abide by set hours like these. But “they’ve been breaking them”, says Monaghan, back on Kevin Street.
Some mornings construction kicks off at 7am, other mornings at 6am. “This morning it was 5am” she says.
The council can issue what are known as “derogations” that allow for construction outside of the hours set in the planning permission.
In February 2017, it said it was examining ideas for measures that developers could put in place to protect residents during these extended working hours.
Dublin City Council Press Office didn’t respond by the time this was published to queries about what it had done since then. It also didn’t say whether it had issued a derogation for the hotel on Kevin Street, or how many out-of-hours exceptions have been granted in 2018.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn says that “Dublin City Council is not as proactive as it should be” in dealing with breaches of out-of-hours construction, he says.
Independent Councillor Sonya Stapleton says she favours on-the-spot fines for construction companies that break planning conditions such as operating hours.
“But it’s very difficult,” says Stapleton. Site stoppages could cause delays and job losses for workers.
At the moment, the council can’t do that much to force construction companies to stick within the hours they’re supposed to work, says Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey.
It costs money to prosecute them, so the council doesn’t do that, he says. And the council might have to go to court as a result.
Some kind of enforcement bond would be better, says Lacey. A system whereby the company has to put a sum into an account and the council can deduct fines from it, if it violates its planning conditions.
No “good developer” has anything to lose, Lacey says.
In a written response to Stapleton, who had asked about the issue, Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan said that the council does spot checks around the city “to ensure compliance with approved working hours”.
It is looking into issues around the Kevin Street site “and will ensure that the main contractor on site is reminded of his obligations regarding working hours”, the response said.