Distracted by rattling forklifts, Darren Lee looked out his apartment’s window on 2 July and onto the laneway outside.
Construction workers were moving crates of furniture towards a site nearby where they were building student accommodation. A crane hummed as it swung across the sky to pick up the crates.
It was after 10pm.
“I asked him what was he doing and he said that they were getting in furniture. I then asked him had he got a permit to get in and he showed me a permit which was out of date,” says Lee.
The permit was for the week before. Lee called the Gardaí and they told the builder not to do it again. “It took off from there,” says Lee.
Residents living off Dominick Street Upper say they’ve struggled since last October to have constructive communication with Walls, the firm building student accommodation just off Dominick Lane.
On Monday, they blocked the entrance to the construction site to try, they say, to force the firm to listen to complaints about dust blanketing their homes, and the clammer of construction at anti-social hours.
Walls didn’t respond to a series of queries about work on the site and rules around construction.
A List of Complaints
“Our homes have been destroyed in dust,” said Sandra Murphy, a local resident, on Monday morning.
At 9am, Murphy, other residents, and volunteers had brought bags of buns and a radio down to Dominick Street Lane, unfolded deckchairs, and blocked the laneway that serves as an entrance to the site at 58-64 Dominic Street.
Children ran up and down the laneway with toy fire trucks and dolls. A girl from a local cafe dropped down about a dozen sausage rolls.
Murphy, and others, say they want assurances from developers that their windows will be washed.
They want proper dust protection on their houses, she says. An end to construction work outside of designated hours. More due care to the noise, too.
“The noise has just been terrible,” says Lee. “There’s just constant noise from the trucks.”
Health and safety is also a concern for Lee. “You can see that gate there,” says Lee, pointing up the lane towards an entrance point into the apartment block. “A kid can come out at any time they want and there’s big articulated trucks coming up and down.”
But residents say they’ve no way to get this message across – which is why they blockaded the road, to try to open up communication.
Communication is vital so that residents can have a normal standard of living while construction goes on, says Gillian Brien, a member of People of Profit who lives nearby in the Constitution Hill flats.
Permits and Planning Rules
Planning permission for the site limits work to 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays. On Sundays and public holidays, there should be “no activity of site”, it says.
If builders need to work outside these hours, it must be in “exceptional circumstances” and needs written approval from Dublin City Council, it says. That’s “to safeguard the amenities of adjoining residential occupiers”.
Councillors have complained in the past, after late-night work in the Docklands, that they have no idea what the council considers to be “exceptional circumstances”.
When some residents in the Liberties complained this time last year of noisy construction on a hotel site, some councillors said there needed to be different ways to enforce current rules.
Nicole Molloy, a resident of Dominick Street, says work has been starting at 6am and ending at 11pm for the past couple of weeks.
“From last Wednesday, we stopped them coming in the laneway,” says Molloy.
That was after Lee was shown the permit for the wrong date, and wrong activities, she says.
A photograph of the permit, taken on 2 July at 10:09pm shows a Dublin City Council header, dated 28 June 2019. It’s titled: “Permission to Work Outside the Permitted Work Hours”.
The proposed works were sewer works – and “no other works should be carried out” during that time, it said. Videos taken by Molloy on Tuesday night at 10.32 show forklifts moving bundles of items across the laneway, and a crane picking them up.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson says the council didn’t grant permission for 2 July 2019, for the student accommodation at 58-64 Dominick Street Upper.
The area enforcement manager is looking into a complaint about out-of-hours work at the moment, they said.
Says Brien: “They’ve no permits for working evenings, they’ve no permits for working weekends.”
Independent Councillor Christy Burke says, “Every summer, we get small snippets of people working until 10 o’clock at night.”
“They’re banging doors, they’re carrying stuff in, they’re getting the bright nights and trying to squeeze stuff in,” he says.
If a developer is in breach of planning regulations, legal proceedings can be initiated at the discretion of Dublin City Council by way of an enforcement action. This can result in an enforcement notice and/or suspension of future derogations for a period of time. Derogations are a relaxation surrounding the working hours as set down by planning permission.
Residents are also supposed to be told “by the developer” if out-of-hours permits have been approved, according to a 2016 council briefing to the planning committee. It’s a “core requirement”, it says.
Many residents said there’s been no communication between themselves and the developer since last October.
“They’ve completely blanked us,” says Molloy, “[They] stopped the whole communication process.”
“We started meeting with Walls [the builder] in September, just discussing the reasonable things we wanted them to do, like working within the hours,” says Molloy.
The residents are planning on continuing to restrict access to the lane until communication re-opens between them and the builders.