Vacancy Watch: 19 & 21 Connaught Street, Phibsboro
At the February monthly meeting of the full Dublin City Council on Monday, Labour Councillor Declan Meenagh asked about numbers 19 and 21 Connaught Street in Phibsboro.
“Can we just see how we can speed that up because I understand that we have bought them but for constituents they just see houses getting in worse and worse and worse condition and it’s really frustrating when there’s a housing crisis,” he said, to assistant chief executive Coilín O’Reilly.
Local resident Des Gunning, a former librarian, now retired, said he has lived in Phibsboro for 40 years, and he’s been frustrated watching the buildings lie vacant for decades.
The council put the two Victorian-style two-storey homes near the Phibsboro Shopping Centre on its Derelict Sites Register back in 2009, according to an An Bord Pleanála inspector’s report.
Then the owner did some work to fix them up and they were removed from the register in 2012, only to be put back on in 2016. In December 2018, the council applied for permission from An Bord Pleanála for a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to buy the buildings.
The “stated owner”, Patrick Joseph Gallagher, objected, and the board’s inspector said the buildings – despite the windows being boarded up and garden overgrown – weren’t actually in bad enough condition to justify a CPO, but An Board Pleanála still granted the CPO, in 2019.
The council’s latest February 2022 Housing Delivery Report lists the status of the two properties as “Appoint Contractor. Estimated completion date Q3 2022.”
Gunning, the local resident, says no there’s been no activity that he could see on the site. “It’s the same story,” he says, when told the status of the buildings listed in the report. “I think they’re a disgrace to the local authority.”
Meenagh, the Labour councillor, said by phone on Tuesday, the day after the meeting, that the project “is going, it’s moving slowly, but it’s going”.
“The problem is legislation”, he said. The CPO legislation is too cumbersome, it takes too long. And as for the procurement requirements, “There’s no urgency in these procurement rules, there’s no way to fast-track it.”
Later, by email, Coilín O’Reilly, the council’s assistant chief executive overseeing housing, said that the council is now “undertaking surveys to inform our tender but it is estimated to be Q3 2022 for tender and Q4 2022 before any works take place on site. It will be late 2023 or early 2024 before the project is complete.”
Cleaning up Finglas’ Village vs Its Park
Why can’t the person who tidies up Finglas village’s streets also pick up the litter from its park? asked Social Democrats Councillor Mary Callaghan at Monday’s full council meeting.
“We have a man with a cart who comes out every morning and tidies up the litter in Finglas village but he’s not allowed to go on the green and do the litter on the green,” she says.
“That’s done every two weeks by somebody from parks. So very often there’s a week and a half where the park is strewn with litter and not tidied up where there’s a man with a cart doing a great job on the streets.”
Richard Shakespeare, one of the council’s assistant chief executives, said he’d try to sort the issue out to see if the approach in some towns and villages could be better integrated.
“It tends to be one [a problem] of demarcation which sounds nuts but what I’ll do is get the parks to engage with the waste management section,” he said.
Clontarf-City Centre Cycle Route
Among the reports that councillors reviewed at their monthly meeting on Monday was an update on major cycling and walking projects. That report said the construction contract has now been awarded for the €62 million Clontarf-to-city centre cycle route.
The cycle route is to run from Clontarf Road, through Fairview, down North Strand Road, to Amiens Street.
“And it’s not just a cycleway, it’s widening of the walkways, it’s plazas, it’s seating, it’s greening of the city,” said Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney. “It’s just going to be transformative of the city and it’s the type of development that we’d like to see throughout the city.”
The project has now formally commenced, and is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2024, the report says. “The project team will be holding a series of meetings and briefings on the project over the next period of time as the contractor mobilises to move on to site.”
There’s an informational website up, an information leaflet was distributed to 22,000 homes and businesses in January, the report says. But independent Councillor Nial Ring asked council managers where exactly those leaflets had been distributed.
“Because certainly where I have businesses, where I have relations, where I have friends, where I have lots of people I know, constituents, none of them have been informed of this. Absolutely nobody in Ballybough, North Strand, East Wall has been informed of this,” Ring said.
Cooney, of the Green Party, who represents Clontarf, said she had not got a leaflet through the door herself, but had heard from people in the area who had. Brendan O’Brien, head of transport for the council, said he’d get a map for councillors of where the leaflets went.
However, even if they had got the leaflet, it “gives no idea to the people of Ballybough, East Wall or North Strand, the traffic chaos that’s about to be heaped upon them in the next year or so”, said Ring, the independent councillor.
The project is only now in the stage of making traffic plans, said O’Brien, the council’s head of transport. Lots more information about that will be coming out soon, he said.
It’s residents in Ballybough, Summerhill Parade, Summerhill and Portland Row who are going to “take the heavy hits” from the traffic diversions required to put in the cycleway, said independent Councillor Christy Burke, chair of the council’s transport committee, who represents the north inner-city.
And they are “not going to gain in any cycleway or tree planting or pathway improvement during this whole works programme”, Burke said.
Independent Councillor Vincent Jackson, who represents the Ballyfermot-Drimnagh area, said he was “delighted that Clontarf is getting this additional priority and all”.
But, looking at the report providing an update on major cycling and walking projects, “I can’t believe that the west of the city, Ballyfermot, Cherry Orchard has been totally omitted. Not a mention of them, not even a mention in the next five years.”