The council is considering rezoning 20 packages of industrial land across the city, meaning the land could be used for housing and other mixed uses, rather than industrial uses, like warehouses, factories, breweries, and so on.
Dublin City Council officials have been analysing a list of what are known as Z6/Z7 lands in their area, to see which of them might be underused.
Each time council officials have brought forward the latest report on the plans to rezone industrial land, some councillors have raised questions about what levers they could use to influence what gets built on it.
Others have asked how the state can benefit from the massive hikes in land values that such rezonings would bestow upon landowners.
Those were key themes, too, at Monday’s monthly meeting of Dublin City Council at City Hall. But while there were several rounds of questions, there were few answers.
Who Owns Them?
The council’s list of 20 packages of land – some along the city’s northern fringes, and many others in the south-west – didn’t include details of who owns them.
Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland asked for a breakdown of what was public and what was private. “I think if they’re in state ownership, there’s an onus on us really to get to grips with that and use that for public housing on public land.”
Much of the debate, though, focused on what would happen to private land once rezoned, though – both what would be built on it, and who would benefit from the increase in its value.
Independent Councillor Cieran Perry said he would need some kind of commitment from any owners of private lands on the list. “There has to be some method for influencing these types of developments.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O’Toole said he was wary after what has happened with the Chivers Factory site in Coolock in his constituency, after councillors agreed to rezone that back in March last year.
When they asked for the rezoning, developers from Platinum Land showed councillors a vision for the site that fit with the city’s development plan, the blueprint set by councillors.
But once new central government guidelines were brought in which overruled the councillors’ development plan and allowed for greater heights, the landowners increased the number of apartments in the plans.
There should be something almost like a local area plan for each of the 20 packages of land before the councillors consider rezoning them, O’Toole said. (Local area plans set out in detail what the council would consider sustainable on different plots.)
“Once bitten, twice shy, that’s my motto,” O’Tool said.
Críona Ní Dhálaigh of Sinn Féin said she was concerned that once the land is rezoned, any residential construction there would be of co-living, low-standard build-to-rent homes, and student housing.
Some of the 20 packages of industrial land are currently in use. In the Goldenbridge Industrial Estate in Inchicore, for example, there’s Rascal’s Brewing Company, Solid Rock Church of God, Gravity Climbing Centre, Lumley’s Bakery, and Kimex Direct, which sells Afro-Carribean and Asian foods.
Other lands listed are not as well used. Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney said she’d be glad to see industrial lands that have been left derelict used for housing instead.
But she would be concerned that people who have left land vacant would be rewarded, she said. “That landowners now basically have a windfall.”
The Green Party had called for a windfall tax on rezoned lands to be restored, but that hasn’t happened, said Cooney. “Is there anyway we can negotiate those lands for public housing, at least, a percentage of it?”
Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan also said it is essential that the council is central to the future of the land, even if the land is in private ownership.
“We need to make sure whatever homes are built there are good quality,” Doolan said. The council should make sure that the community is consulted and there are social and affordable homes, he said.
Independent Councillor John Lyons said he wanted the list of 20 packages of land to go to the council’s local area committees, so councillors could talk about them there first.
Mary Freehill, the Labour councillor, said similar – and asked how Greenmount Industrial Estate in Harold’s Cross, which is in her area, had made it onto the list.
“The list is extraordinarily long, where it’s coming from, I’m not sure,” she said.
Ray McAdam, the Fine Gael councillor who heads up the council’s planning and urban form committee, said there had been meetings with council officials to talk about it – and the plan should just go out for public feedback now.
“I do not see under any circumstances why this has to go out to the area committees,” McAdam said.
Owen Keegan, the council’s chief executive, said the council would initiate the variations to the development plan – meaning the list would soon go out to public consultation for four weeks.
After that, the next step is for officials to compile submissions and advise the 63 councillors, who will have the final say.