Chief Executive Owen Keegan says he’s sympathetic to the idea of making changes to the city’s development plan that would block more hotels, student accommodation and short-term lets from being granted planning permission.
“We’re very sympathetic of the broad thrust,” he told councillors at their monthly meeting Monday at City Hall.
Green Party councillors Claire Byrne and Patrick Costello had asked others to back a motion to vary the city’s development plan, the blueprint that outlines what can be built where in the city, whether land should be used for a shop or a home, a hotel or a park.
The development plan should note that it’s council policy “to prevent the loss of lands for long-term residential occupancy”, the motion says.
It should also, therefore, say that the council should not grant planning permission for more short-term residential units or changes of use from housing to short-term lettings from now until the end of the plan – which runs out in 2022.
In the absence of national policy, the council needs to take action, says Byrne. She was armed with figures. “All we are building on vacant land is student accommodation and hotels.”
She pointed to student housing that has become an apart-hotel on Chancery Lane. She pointed to student accommodation on the corner of Aungier Street and Stephen’s Green – also in her part of the city.
Of 12 applications in her area for student housing in the last four years, all have been approved in the council, said Byrne.
Of the 220 hotel-related applications, only 13 have been refused, she said. “That’s just in the south-east area.”
“This is prime land for city living and we are handing it over for short-term accommodation,” she says.
Land is scarce and these developments fuel price rises in new houses and rental properties, said Costello. “They’re making a mockery of any sort of housing plan we had in the development plan.”
Independent Councillor Ruairí McGinley said many coffee shops are fuelled by tourists and students in the city. “I don’t think it’s as black and white as this motion is making out, by a long shot.”
It’s up to the chief executive, Keegan, to initiate changes to the development plan, though. Councillors don’t have that power.
Keegan said if councillors held off voting on the motion, officials would come back with a full report on what they think is possible. Talking about a blanket ban is risky, he said. “We have to be very careful,” he says.
But they would look at what wording would address councillors’ concerns, without opening the council to legal challenge or unintended consequences, he said.
College Green, Redux
Head of transport Dick Brady said the council plans to lodge a new application with An Bord Pleanála for traffic changes at College Green. They’ll be doing that in the new year, he said.
In November, he briefed councillors on three options on the table at that stage. One was for a judicial review. That one’s been ruled out.
The other was for tweaks to traffic under existing council powers. They’re going to do that too, said Brady. “For the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and the efficient operation of public transport.”
Going back to An Bord Pleanála doesn’t mean they have to start from scratch, he said. “There’s been a helluva lot of work done in relation to this proposal.”
Horses for Labre Park
A plot of council land near Labre Park should be set for nearby Traveller residents to keep horses and develop a space for horse-welfare education, People Before Profit Councillor Hazel De Nortúin has said for some time.
It would help deal with illegal dumping and also show that the council recognises the importance of horses to Traveller culture, she has said.
Councillors on Monday agreed a motion that called on the council to “commit to and facilitate” the use of land at the back of Labre Park by the Labre Park Horse Association.
An earlier version of the motion had called on councillors to agree to lease the land for horse-care facilities, but councillors postponed that at their last monthly meeting.
“It’s nothing concrete, it’s just showing that we are going to support a use of that land that will involve the Labre Park Horse Association,” said De Nortúin, of the newly worded motion on Monday night.
Some councillors spoke against the plan. Independent Councillor Ruairí McGinley said he isn’t in support of giving over land for horses there.
The council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said he is against leasing the land. But officials are happy to engage with the Labre Park Horse Association. “It’s a changed motion and we don’t have difficulty with it.”
Red Tape and Housing
People who were granted leave to remain by the government, after they’ve sought asylum here in Ireland, used to be able to go onto council housing lists, even if they hadn’t been in the country for five years as is the usual requirement.
But when laws changed in 2015, the words that the government used changed slightly from “leave to remain”, to “permission to remain”. That means some asylum seekers have been told they don’t qualify to get on the housing list.
“This is frankly inexcusable,” said Frank Kennedy of Fianna Fáil. “It is something that needs to be addressed immediately.”
Kennedy said the council needed to adopt a definition that anybody who gets leave to remain or permission to remain is exempt from the five-year residency requirement, and the circular should be updated.
Councillors backed the motion. Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan said it was “an excellent motion” and seconded it. He said there are wider issues at play, with concerns about racism around housing.
Doolan pointed to a European Union report released last week that found in the five years before the survey 51 percent of people of African descent had experienced hate-motivated harassment in Ireland – among the highest rates in the union.
“Unacceptable,” he says. “We’re faring very very badly. […] There’s a lot of work for us to do here.”