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There’s a green field off Long Mile Road in Walkinstown where Jackie Greene Construction Limited has sought planning permission for 153 homes in four blocks.
Within the plans are 5,126 square metres of open space, including a playground, in the centre of the blocks – but the developer wants all this green space to be private, for residents only, councillors were told at a meeting of the South Central Area Committee last week.
They’ve suggested paying “a financial contribution” instead of opening the green space to the public, said Majella Keating, a council planner for the area.
Councillors weren’t impressed by that idea – or the plan for the social homes to be clustered at one end of one of the apartment blocks, rather than peppered throughout the buildings.
On Friday, the person who answered the phone at Jackie Greene Construction Limited said nobody was available to answer queries due to holidays.
The developer’s agent for the application, Brenda Butterly of McGill Planning, wasn’t available either.
Jackie Greene Construction Limited’s plans are for two apartment blocks, and two blocks of maisonettes.
The apartment blocks would fit 138 homes: 54 one-beds, 76 two-beds, and 7 three-beds, along with one studio apartment, plans show. The maisonette blocks would contain 15 homes, built as duplexes, it says.
The plans also show 129 car-parking spaces, 198 cycle-parking spots, a concierge, and a gym.
It’ll be up to An Bord Pleanála whether the development, which would be built next to the Assumption National School in Walkinstown, is granted permission or not.
Since it’s more than 100 homes, the developer can skip straight to An Bord Pleanála for permission, skirting the council under “fast-track” planning rules.
Councillors’ comments get fed into a report sent to An Bord Pleanála – and they had several questions about the idea of taking cash, instead of public green space.
At the meeting, Keating, the planner, said: “The applicant has stated the development of a small public park equivalent to 10 percent of the area is not considered suitable at this location.”
Under the city development plan – the blueprint set by councillors in theory to try to ensure the right stuff gets built in the right places – developers of residential developments in most cases have to set aside 10 percent of the area for high-quality public space.
But there’s a get-out clause. The plan also says that can be swapped for a financial contribution if the council considers the site “to be too small or inappropriate (because of site shape or general layout) to fulfil useful purpose”.
The developer suggested that money “could be conditioned there towards the provision and enhancement of open space and landscape in the locality, such as Lansdowne Valley Park, Walkinstown Green, and the public park there on Thomas Moore Road”, Keating said.
Councillor Hazel De Nortúin, of People Before Profit, said she was doubtful that was even possible.
“I put in questions before about, ‘Where does the money go when developers give a lump sum to Dublin City Council? How can we ring fence it to make sure it stays in the area?’” she said, at the meeting.
“[I] was told that’s not something we can do; it’s not a possibility under Dublin City Council,” she said.
There’s a “duty and obligation” on developers when it comes to green space, said People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh.
There would be 5,126 square metres of communal open space for residents at the development off Long Mile Road – it just won’t be open to the public, said Keating. That’s “five times more” than the city development plan demands for developments of this scale, she said.
Reading aloud from the application, Keating said the developer stated that providing a public park “is not considered suitable at this location”.
“So that’s the extent of the explanation they’ve given in relation to the provision of public open space,” Keating said.
She wasn’t sure how much Jackie Greene Construction Limited would be asked to pay, if they do get permission to close off the green space.
“I’m not against housing,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan, on the phone after the meeting.
But if there are plans for large apartment blocks bringing in more people to live there, they need to add more green spaces too, he said. “There does need to be extra green space to meet the needs of future development.”
This is the first application Doolan has seen in which the developer has asked to make a financial contribution rather than providing public green space, he says. “My worry is now this is creating a precedent.”
Dublin City Council hasn’t yet responded to queries sent Friday asking how many times the money-for-green-space option has been sought and granted, and whether the money can be earmarked for the neighbourhood where the development is.
On the Edge
Councillors had a second concern too – around segregation in the development.
The plans for the development say that 15 social homes would be sold to the council under the provision known as Part V: one studio, 10 one-beds, and four two-beds.
The council is expected to pay €454,000 for each two-bed apartment, and €245,000 for the studio, according to an “estimate of cost” from Jackie Greene Construction Limited. Different one-beds have different prices within that range, it shows.
Plans show those Part V social homes clustered together at one end of one of the apartment blocks.
“Would that be standard that it’s just put, kind of parked in the corner? Why isn’t that integrated across the entire complex?” asked Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí De Róiste. “It should be integrated living.”
Said Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne: “The fact that they’re all stuck together in one corner is an attempt to stigmatise, maybe, those who are going to take up residency.”
The council’s housing committee has had a policy of peppering those homes throughout developments, said Dunne. “I think we should insist upon that.”
Keating said the Part V provisions are an “outline agreement” with the council’s housing department.
At the end of the meeting, Keating told councillors their comments would be summarised and sent in to An Bord Pleanála with Chief Executive’s Owen Keegan’s report.
The South Central Area Committee’s meeting was on Wednesday 17 July. The deadline for the submission was the following day by 5:30pm.
“We’re sitting here with no power to go against it,”said People Before Profit’s De Nortúin.
An Bord Pleanála is scheduled to decide the application by 3 October.