As Council Officials Propose Residential Rezonings Across the City, Local Councillors Vote Many Down

Last week, councillors rejected many of the proposals from Dublin City Council officials to rezone sites all across the city.

Councillors and officials are drawing up the next city development plan at the moment, which sets out a vision for how the city should grow, and what can be built where, from 2022 to 2028. It’s still a draft, and there were meetings last week to thrash out what version of that draft should be sent out to the public for feedback.

Councillors were surprised recently to learn that, without their knowledge, council management had included more than 200 rezonings in the draft development plan. They then demanded a list of these and last week went through them one by one, deciding whether to accept them.

Some were technical, correcting and updating zonings to match what’s already on land. Others were substantial land rezonings and on those councillors rejected most of officials’ proposals means they won’t, after all, make it into the draft plan due to go out to public consultation on 25 November, although they could be debated again in the future.

Council officials justified most – although not all – of the proposals as necessary to boost housing supply. But some lands are already being used locally for other things, like employment, community uses and recreational green space, councillors pointed out.

Councillors rejected plans to rezone lands at the Tolka Park Stadium, the Crumlin Road Shopping Centre, the Malahide Road Industrial Estate, St Paul’s playing pitches near St Anne’s Park, and six churches, among others sites.

“It is an existing church car park,” said Fianna Fáil Councillor Keith Connolly, as local councillors rejected the council managers’ proposal to rezone part of the grounds of St Canice’s Church on Main Street in Finglas from its current use as community and social infrastructure (Z15) to residential (Z1).

Finglas village is “a nightmare for parking”, said Connolly by phone on Saturday. The church car park is well used by people attending Mass, weddings, and funerals, he says.

Councillors did agree to put some potential rezonings forward for public consultation though. Among them are lands at the Finglas Business Park in the Tolka Valley, near the Kildonan Road in Finglas and the Bluebell Industrial Estate.

On Affordable Housing

In general, some councillors have been hesitant about rezoning big parcels of land at the moment, worried that when they do rezone large sites, they might not get the type of development they want, including enough affordable homes.

They also worry, they say, about an overconcentration of build-to-rent apartments in the city, and about rezoned sites that become more valuable being flipped without anything being built.

So, at the monthly meeting of the full council on 1 November, Social Democrats Councillor Catherine Stocker proposed that the council adopt a new Z16 zoning, “to protect the social and affordable use of residential land”.

At a later meeting, on 10 November, councillors agreed to adopt this proposal, although the council’s legal advisor, the law agent, warned that the move was not in line with national legislation.

Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan said the new zoning was “an imaginative, rational attempt to try to promote social and affordable housing”.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey also backed the idea, and said that the council did something similar with the Dublin Docklands development 20 years ago.

But chief planner John O’Hara said that was different, the Dublin Docklands development was underpinned by legislation. “The development plan cannot circumvent national legislation.”

“If you specify Z16 zoning for affordable housing at a certain percentage it implies that the other zoned land is not affordable,” he says. “Which sort of demeans the development plan.”

Yvonne Kelly, the council’s law agent, said the new zoning wasn’t consistent with national legislation. Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 prescribes the number of affordable homes that are required to be built on private land, she said.

“Any attempt to increase the percentage is really problematic and could be open to legal challenge,” Kelly said.

With her motion to create the new Z16 zoning, Stocker, the Social Democrats councillor, “is asking us to break the law”, said Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan. “It’s a wreckless, wreckless motion”, he said.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney said she would be voting against the motion in light of the law agent’s advice. Putting something into the development plan that isn’t consistent with the law is “leading the public astray”, she said.

Councillors voted 27 to 25 in favour of the new affordable housing zoning, with one abstention.

On Church Lands

As well as at St Canice’s, council managers proposed rezoning sites on the grounds of four other churches from institutional and community use to residential so that housing can be built there.

Among them were the Lady of Victories Church on the Ballymun Road, Donnycarney Church, Our Lady of Mercy Church in Harmonstown and the Church of St John Vianney in Artane.

“The site has underutilised land that would provide for small scale residential infill development such as sheltered housing,” say managers’ reports for each of them.

“In line with ministerial requests to encourage the development of church land, it is considered that the site should be rezoned from Z15 (institutional land) to Z1 to facilitate potential residential developments,” it said.

Councillors rejected that proposal and decided instead to rezone lands at the Donnycarney Church and the Church of St John Vianney in Artane and Our Lady of Mercy Church in Harmonstown as Z12.

Z12 is defined as “to ensure the existing environmental amenities are protected in the predominantly residential future of these lands”.

By phone on Tuesday, Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney, said that the Z12 zoning would allow for certain kinds of homes, such as senior citizens housing. At least 20 percent of the land, when redeveloped, has to be public open space.

Councillors also voted to keep the current Z15 zoning at the Lady of Victories Church on the Ballymun Road, which means it should be for community and social infrastructure. And to keep the Z15 zoning for lands at St Teresa’s Church on Donore Avenue in Dublin 8.

On the phone on Tuesday, Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon said that councillors didn’t have enough information about thatDonore Avenue rezoning but might consider it again in the next phase of the plan.

Keeping Smaller Spaces

Many proposals for small sites to be rezoned from green space to housing in the Finglas area were also rejected by local councillors.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Keith Connolly, who chairs the council’s local North West Area Committee, said that some of the proposals were for very small green spaces that are used by local communities.

“The councillors met and we were all unanimous,” he says. “The vast majority were rejected. In some cases, it was the only green space in the area for quite some distance.”

Others were small patches of tarmac outside people’s homes that they use for parking, he said.

Local councillors are happy to go to a public consultation about the possibility of rezoning some of the industrial estates and larger greenfield sites in the area, he says.

A site on Kildonan Road, formerly the Abigail Centre, is 4.5 hectares and should be developed, he says. “We are all for housing there.”

Local councillors also agreed to put the rezoning of the Finglas Business Park out to public consultation, he said.** **That industrial estate is run-down, he said, so it would be better to develop it.

Councillors recently rezoned a large industrial estate at Jamestown Road in Finglas to allow for up to 2,200 homes.

Council managers had proposed splitting the St Paul’s playing pitches near St Anne’s Park, with some of it zoned as green space (Z9) but another part zoned for housing (Z1).

Local councillors rejected that proposal and instead decided to rezone part of the land as green space but keep the existing z15 zoning, for community and social infrastructure, on the rest of it.

Said Fine Gael Councillor Naoise Ó Muirí: “There is a continuing demand for playing facilities there.”

The proposal to rezone some of that land to residential was “absolutely unacceptable and should be withdrawn”, he said.

Councillors also rejected a proposal to rezone half of the land at the Tolka Park Stadium from green open space (Z9) to urban mixed-use (Z10).

Council chief executive Owen Keegan had previously said that the council needs to sell Tolka Park to help fund the redevelopment of Dalymount.

Sinn Féin Councillor Séamas McGrattan asked what implications that decision not to rezone Tolka Park would have for the redevelopment of Dalymount.

Council chief planner John O’Hara said that it is fine to leave the current zoning on Tolka Park for now.

“At some point, we will have to have a discussion about League of Ireland football on the north side of the city,” he said.

And Elsewhere

Councillors rejected a proposal to rezone lands at the Crumlin Shopping Centre from being part of a key urban village (Z4) to residential (Z1).

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said that the current zoning is appropriate.

The shopping centre has been “decanted, decommissioned and partially demolished and is effectively a derelict site”, he said. A Dunnes Stores still trades in the shopping centre, but that’s all.

If the site were rezoned, housing might be built there but the shopping centre could still be left in its current state, said Dunne.

Councillors also rejected the proposed rezoning of the 13.85 hectares Malahide Road Industrial Estate from employment uses (Z6) to a mixed urban centre (Z10). That’s to protect employment and enterprise opportunities there, they said.

Not all local councillors agreed that that rezoning should be rejected though, said Ó Muirí, the Fine Gael councillor

At the meeting, in each case a majority decision was taken by the local area councillors and that was then ratified by the full council.

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

Reader responses

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Robert Lawson
at 17 November at 13:43

If Finglas village is a "nightmare for parking", perhaps the solution is to convert parking to residential so more people can live there and walk to the things they need.

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