In Cabra, Owners of Long-Vacant Pub Propose Building 117 Rental Apartments on Site

R & D Development Ltd has submitted a planning proposal for 117 build-to-rent apartments in Cabra, on a site that includes the run-down pub and long-time source of councillor complaints, Matt’s of Cabra, on Faussagh Avenue.

The developer is looking to demolish the pub and build an apartment complex reaching seven storeys at the highest point, with 67 one-bedroom and 50 two-bedroom homes as well as 23 car parking spaces, bicycle parking, a cafe, a gym and a lounge.

Within the development, 112 of the apartments would have balconies and the developer says that 86 percent of the homes would meet the minimum standards for daylight inside the apartments, says a daylight and sunlight report.

Siobhan O’Connor, a senior executive planner with Dublin City Council, walked local councillors through the plans at a special meeting of their Central Area Committee on 24 March.

Councillors expressed frustration and concern about the dominance of the build-to-rent model – which are homes in complexes just for renters, and subject to different standards to those for owner-occupiers – in the new housing planned for Cabra.

Some said the homes in the proposed Faussagh Avenue complex will be too expensive for most locals to rent. The model is “purely profit gouging”, said independent Councillor Cieran Perry.

Councillors also pointed out that the application contravenes Dublin City Council’s current city development plan, which lays out what can be built where, in seven different ways.

Different national guidelines supersede the city’s own rules though.

Councillors also asked about the status of the company applying for permission. In July 2021, the company behind the scheme, Isle of Man-based R & D Developments Ltd, had been struck off the companies register there.

It got that issue sorted since then, said a spokesperson for the Isle of Man’s Central Registry. “An application to restore the company was made on 07/10/2021,” he said by email. “The company is Live on the register.”

The Journey to Here

In 2018, a company called Labinies Limited got planning permission to build student housing on the site at Faussagh Avenue.

In September 2021, Richard McCafferty, a representative for R & D Developments, said that they didn’t go ahead with those plans because Dublin City Council had granted too many permissions for student accommodation and the market was saturated.

Councillors have said that local people were very unhappy with the site becoming so run-down, with no response from those responsible for the site to requests to clean it up and fence it off.

“It’s destroying the place,” said independent Councillor Cieran Perry last September. “They are making no effort.”

File photo from September 2021 of Matts of Cabra. Image by Laoise Neylon.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said the council had on 26 August 2019 put the site at 2A Faussagh Street on the Vacant Sites Register, a database the council keeps of vacant sites in residential areas that are over a certain size and vacant for more than 12 months.

A “demand for payment” of the levy – the charge on the owner for leaving the site vacant – was served on the owners in January 2021 for all of 2020, they said.

In a pre-planning application submitted to An Board Pleanála last October, R & D Developments said it was looking to build 137 homes in a build-to-rent complex that would have been eight storeys at its peak.

Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála planners issued formal opinions on the proposal, as they do with all strategic housing development plans. The developers made some adjustments based on issues raised by council planners, according to a report by the developer’s architects.

The new proposal is scaled down, reducing the number of homes from 137 to 117 and the highest point from eight storeys to seven storeys.

The proposed development would share a boundary with Lanigan’s Funeral Home and the developer made changes to its plans on that side, removing balconies and raising windows to stop overlooking, says the report.

At the Meeting

At the local area committee meeting, councillors – whose comments are passed on to planners at An Bord Pleanála, which will decide whether to approve the apartments or not – didn’t have much to say in favour of the scheme.

Sinn Féin Councillor Séamus McGrattan said that locals welcome the development of the site but that people need affordable homes. “Exorbitant prices are forcing people out of the area.”

McGrattan said that recently proposed developments seem to breach the development plan more and more.

“Applications used to come in and it would highlight one material contravention to the development plan,” he said. “This one has a list of contraventions.”

Said Labour Party Councillor Joe Costello: “It’s not family friendly, it’s investor-led and it’s contrary to the development plan.”

The proposed complex contravenes the council’s city development plan in seven ways, says a material contravention statement,included in the plans.

It’s taller at its highest point, rising to 23 m rather than the 16 m allowed in the plan. Five bedrooms are smaller than the minimum sizes, and there are up to 12 homes wrapped around each “core” – being a lift or stairs – which is more than the eight allowed.

Seventeen of the homes don’t meet the minimum requirement for daylight and, while the development plan says that each home should have some private outdoor space, five of the 117 apartments don’t have balconies.

Meanwhile, 57 percent of the homes in the proposed development are one-bedroom apartments, while the current city development plan says that no more than 30 percent of homes in a complex should be one-bedroom, or a maximum 50 percent in a build-to-rent scheme.

In 2018, the then Housing Minister brought in special standards for build-to-rent apartments, and lifted restrictions on heights, overruling the rules laid out by councils in their development plans.

O’Connor, the council planner, showed images of how the complex would look next to the existing houses on St Attracta Road in Cabra.

Costello, the Labour councillor, said that while the projections look fine from the front, the back gardens and the back of the houses will be overlooked.

Labour Councillor Declan Meenagh criticised the appearance of the complex, saying that it “doesn’t respond to the architecture of Cabra”.

Green Party Councillor Darcy Lonergan asked if there is any solar power included. O’Connor said there are 30 panels in the development.

The green roofs in the plans are for biodiversity, said O’Connor, rather than roof gardens that residents can access.

Fine Gael Councillor Colm O’Rourke said that new developments need to provide amenities for the community, including recreational spaces. “We are running out of land in Cabra and we need more community spaces.”

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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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Kelly
at 30 March at 10:32

Great article, thank you Laoise for highlighting this

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