Council Briefs: Inchicore Library Revamp, Chapelizod Housing and More

Inchicore Library

Long-awaited improvements to Inchicore Library look set to go ahead, councillors learnt at last week’s meeting of their South Central Area Committee.

Dublin City Council’s Capital Projects Governance Board – a board of senior managers in the council responsible for overseeing the council’s capital projects – has okayed €2 million in funding for them.

According to Area Manager Mary Taylor, half of the funds are to come from development levies, and the other half from council funds.

The plan includes significant maintenance and landscaping, and new public spaces inside and outside the building. It also aims to make the library universally accessible and add toilet facilities.

Paul Fusco, of the council’s libraries management team, said a new library is part of plans for St Michael’s Estate, which is earmarked for a cost-rental housing project, a pilot for homes with rents based mainly on construction and financing costs, rather than set by the market.

But there’s no timeline for that project yet, he said. If the library moves to St Michael’s Estate eventually, officials say the current building could be repurposed.

“The work we’re doing won’t preclude the library’s use as a public facility should we move up the road,” Fusco said at the meeting.

“This is the first significant investment in Inchicore Library since it opened [in the 1930s]. We feel that it counts as good value for money,” he said.

Fusco said the library isn’t accessible at the moment. Making the building “universally accessible” under the Disability Act is “five years overdue”, he said.

Social Housing in Chapelizod

Dublin City Council has dropped plans to use emergency planning powers to build social homes at Springvale in Chapelizod, and plans to go through its normal process instead, and has dropped the number of apartments planned from as many as 120 to 71.

The plan now includes 21 one-bedroom, 30 two-bedroom, and 20 three-bedroom apartments on the site next to the Phoenix Park, which fronts onto Chapelizod Road, and is across the street from the Church of the Nativity.

At last week’s South Central Area Committee meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh said she’d “never seen such naked hostility to public housing” as she saw in Chapelizod.

“I’m worried that every single time we make some progress on designing the units, the objections and the naysayers and the not-in-my-garden brigade are going to stop us from building anything,” she said.

At first, Dublin City Council had planned to use its emergency powers under Section 179 of the Planning and Development Act to push ahead with the homes.

That allows the council to bypass the normal process for getting planning permission in cases that the council Chief Executive Owen Keegan considers “an emergency situation calling for immediate action”.

Administrative “roadblocks” delayed the project, said Darach O’Connor, a senior executive officer with the council. “Last week, we got approval in principle to proceed.”

Now, though, it’s going through the normal process for council homes, known colloquially as “Part 8”, according to O’Connor.

An early feasibility study suggested room for between 100 and 120 homes there, said Cian Harte, senior architect for the council.

After a design process and consulting with local residents, the number was dropped to 71. Harte called it a “reasonable balance” and “an appropriate response to the site”.

There’s also a small community centre or Scout hall in the designs. That’s something local Scouts have been waiting on for “donkey’s years”, said Councillor Daithí Doolan of Sinn Féin.

Architects also upped the number of parking spaces from 38 to 44 following requests from the community. Children’s play areas, bike sheds, and bin storage are also included in plans.

Some trees will be kept, and new ones planted, said Harte. That’s to “keep the feeling of the park” in the development.

Councillors were broadly supportive of the plans, despite strong objections by local residents in Chapelizod.

“It’s social housing, meets the needs of the city; it’s well thought out and wrapped in humanity,” said Doolan.

“It was met by objection after objection that was dressed up in some sort of concern” – for the park, roads, and schools, he said. “Some of them were genuine concerns, and those genuine concerns, I believe, were addressed at public meetings.”

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh said it’s important to give residents as much time to consider the plans as possible.

“There is a sense with residents that something’s being shoehorned in without their views and that it’s going to impact on their lives,” she said.

The council has proposed to build the homes through “volumetric construction” – where parts are made at a facility offsite.

O’Connor said that method is “40 percent more efficient on site” and less disruptive for those living around the building site.

The council also hopes to use volumetric construction to build social housing on Cork and Chamber streets in Dublin 8, near Weaver Park, said O’Connor.

New Homes on Naas Road

Councillors were generally sceptical of a proposal for 492 build-to-rent apartments on the site of the former Concorde Industrial Estate on the Naas Road, between the Kylemore and Bluebell Luas stops.

Many at the South Central Area Committee meeting last week questioned whether a proliferation of small apartments would create a sustainable community.

The proposed development would include studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. It would also have commercial units, space for four cafes/restaurants, office space, a medical centre, a creche, 516 cycle-parking spaces, and 238 car-parking spaces. The height of the blocks varies from four to eight storeys.

“Why are there so many one-bedroom apartments, when families don’t know where to go?” asked Green Party Councillor Sophie Nicoullaud.

“Adding another 200 cars, plus the car dealership – how will that deal with the already congested roads?”

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said build-to-rent “sounds good, but it’s jargon. Who’s it rented to? Who can afford these rents?”

Said Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí de Róiste: “It seems to me that this is, ‘Let’s see if we can cram as many rentable units on one site as possible, in order to get as much money back in rents, rather than accommodate what could be a good proposal for families.’”

Councillors also questioned the development’s location on the Naas Road.

“It’s absolutely crazy out there morning, noon, and night. And that’s before we stick in 492 units,” said de Róiste.

Because there are more than 100 homes in the plans, Development Ocht Limited, the developer, has applied straight to An Bord Pleanála for permission, rather than to Dublin City Council.

Councillors’ comments will be summarised and attached to the chief executive’s report submitted to An Bord Pleanála, said Emer Ui Fhátharta, senior executive planner in the South Central Area.

After a pre-planning meeting in March, An Bord Pleanála asked for more information on pedestrian and cycle routes, and how the development interacts with the Naas Road, among other things.

Ui Fhátharta said An Bord Pleanála’ decision on whether or not to approve the project is due on 22 August.

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Erin McGuire: Erin McGuire is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at erin@dublininquirer.com.

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