Dublin City Council edged ahead on Tuesday with plans to look at rezoning industrial land in different parts of the city, hoping it’ll lead in the future to more and denser homes on underused sites.

The council hasn’t released a map yet of what might be rezoned.

“We’ve been concerned about the idea of speculation and land hoarding, which is one of the reasons why we didn’t present the map today,” John O’Hara, the council’s chief planner, told councillors on the planning committee.

“That’s why we have to take this more slowly,” he said – adding that the talk of rezoning would raise the value of the land banks.

However, his report to councillors did give some details of what planners are looking at.

The Idea

The city is spread over 10,000 hectares, O’Hara’s report says.

At the moment, 863 hectares of that land is zoned either Z6 for employment and enterprise, or Z7 for heavy industry.

Planners split that land into 82 land banks – which included industrial estates close to the M50, old factory sites in the inner-city and clusters of office buildings in Dublin 2 and Dublin 4.

The team went to each of the sites, took a look at what they’re used for, recorded their planning histories, and took note of public-transport access and flood risk, among other factors, the report says.

They found some larger sites or “new growth areas”, which add up to 270 hectares and could be rezoned, but need plans to set out what should go on them.

Those include: land at Jamestown Business Park and Finglas Business Centre; the Dublin Industrial Estate on Ballyboggan Road; land at Oscar Traynor Road; and the Malahide Road and Newtown Industrial Estates.

There’s also lots of land at Kylemore Road, Park West Road, and the Inchicore Works which could be a “new growth area”, the report says.

Most of the Z7 lands, which covers areas such as Dublin Port, should stay that way, the report said.

Meanwhile, about 35 percent – or 217 hectares – of the Z6 lands should stay that way, the report says.

The rest of the Z6 lands should be rezoned with – aside from the “new growth areas” already mentioned – 5 percent as Z1 residential zoning, 5.5 percent as Z14 mixed zoning, 9 percent as Z10 mixed-use zoning, and some others as city-centre zonings, the report says.

What Kind of Housing?

Councillors and other members of the planning committee said they were happy with the progress. Some said, though, that they were keeping an eye what kind of developments might go on these sites.

“Once we rezone it, are we looking at private developers just getting their own way and building what they like?” said Sinn Féin’s Cathleen Carney Boud. How can the council get some social and affordable housing, retail, on these sites, too? she asked.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey said that rezoning land to allow for housing, wouldn’t necessarily mean more housing would be built, at least not anytime soon. There can always be other types of delays.

Lacey pointed to land at Poolbeg West – the SDZ where a development is paused because the council is waiting for a ruling from An Bord Pleanála – and also to the general lack of an affordable-housing scheme from the Department of Housing.

Others involved in the delivery aren’t playing their parts, Lacey said. But still, the council’s rezoning project “is, in my view, headed in the right direction”, he said.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said there’s already loads of residentially zoned land in the city, including sites owned by the council, which are sitting empty – and he’d like to see progress on those.

An Eye on Jobs

Some of those on the committee also raised concerns about how rezoning sites to allow for housing might affect jobs in the city.

“We need housing, but we also need jobs,” said Lacey. So the council needs to make sure the city still has enough land for that, he said.

“I have concerns about employment as well,” said Odran Reid, a planning lecturer at TU Dublin who sits on the committee.

“It’s not just developing housing, we actually have to develop places,” he says, adding that the overall plan is good.

Reid said that if a focus on these rezoned lands replaced concerns for regeneration in the centres of Finglas and Ballymun, that would be a problem.

Labour’s Andrew Montague said that some of the retail that is currently in industrial estates could be in town centres.

Neighbourhoods with hollowed out centres, such as Ballymun and Finglas, could benefit massively if it went there, he said. “If some of that commercial development was right in the town centre.”

Carney Boud asked what might happen to businesses currently on these sites. “Will it have an impact on existing property owners there? If they intend to expand, if they actually feel quite happy where they are.”

O’Hara said he thought most of the existing businesses could remain where they are now, even if the land they are on is rezoned to allow home-building there too. It’s only if, say, they aren’t compatible with being near homes, or if the land is needed for a public-transport link, that there might be an issue, he said.

The mixed-use philosophy, place-making, is all part of it, O’Hara said. “We do recognise that we need to keep jobs as part of the fabric of the city,” he said.

The next step is for council officials to talk more internally and consult with councillors in each area of the city. Councillors would have to vote to rezone each site, O’Hara said.

Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's editor and general-assignment reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with her? Send an email to her at lois@dublininquirer.com.

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