In the North Inner-City, Residents Complain of Dust and Noise from Construction of Student-Housing Complex

On the shared landing at Temple House, a two storey apartment complex in the north inner-city, Margaret McCarthy, a blonde woman in a light green puffy jacket, raps on a door.

A hanging basket beside the door contains decorative flowers and butterflies.

Paddy Harris comes out first. He has grey hair and wears glasses and is followed by his wife Bridget in a black puffy coat.

Paddy has lived here for 53 years and was born in a flat upstairs where his 93-year-old sister lives now, he says. “She’s livelier than any of us.”

Although they might be lively, most of the residents of Temple House are pensioners, he says.

Harris suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which means he has to be careful to avoid dust, he says. That is challenging when an eight-storey student-housing complex is being built metres from your door.

“We try to keep our windows shut,” says Bridget Harris.

“You shouldn’t have to do that,” says Paddy.

During the demolition works the dust was bad, says McCarthy. “It was in my house,” she says. “I run around in my bare feet, I won’t lie to you. I felt something on my feet and I could see all the gravel.”

Michael O’Regan, a project manager with Henry Construction, says the builders are sticking to the rules. “Everything we have done, from day one here, is compliant.”

He uses noise monitors, vibration monitors and dust monitors to ensure that, he says.

O’Regan says he doesn’t think there was excessive dust during demolition works.

But after residents complained, “we increased the dust suppression measures on site”, he says. “We went over and above what was required.”

The Development

In 2019, SP Bakery Ltd got permission to build a 257-bed student complex, eight storeys at the highest point, with a cafe, gym and roof gardens, according to An Bord Pleanála planning documents.

The development includes the restoration of the old Kennedy Bakery building on the other side of the site on Parnell Street, while all the other buildings had to be demolished.

Paddy Harris says that he would like to see photographs of what the finished development will look like. “If we could only get some information and if they would explain it properly.”

Image by 3D Design Bureau from SP Bakery’s planning application, showing Temple House to the left and the proposed student complex to the right

“This is student accommodation,” says McCarthy. “In the summer it’s going to be Airbnb.”

Says Bridget Harris: “You wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t going to be Airbnb. If it was really just for students.”

David McCarthy, Margaret’s son who also lives in Temple House, says that there are already two large student accommodation complexes very nearby, but there is a shortage of permanent housing.

“The area is just being swamped with transience – not that that is a bad thing – but you need to have balance,” he says. He has no faith in the planning process to deliver that balance, he says.

The Construction Works

Father Scully House, a social-housing complex for older people, also neighbours the site.

A video taken by a resident in early October shows dust rising from the site during demolition work, despite efforts by a construction worker to dampen the dust, by spraying it with a hose pipe.

Barry Murphy, a resident of Father Scully House, says that the hose pipe was insufficient for the amount of dust created. “Henry Construction has no regard for the residents,” he says.

O’Regan, the project manager with Henry Construction, says that he is aware that most of the neighbours are older people and he is trying to work with them and does work well with many of them.

Murphy lives on the far side of Father Scully House, away from the site, but says he can still hear a lot of noise from it. “The rock breakers were in there last week,” he says, and he certainly heard that.

Some of that noise from the construction site is unnecessary, says Murphy. A video shows a digger repeatedly being used to shake dust off bricks. That should have been done elsewhere and so he complained to Dublin City Council about that, he says.

O’Regan says that work was part of the demolition, for which they had permission. “That is normal and it is part of the demolition management plan.”

The building work is allowed to take place between 8am and 6pm. One day Murphy heard banging noises before 7am, he says, and found a truck parked in the laneway.

That is a concern, he says, because Temple Lane is the only way to access Temple House and the Father Scully House car park.

O’Regan says that he has told the companies making deliveries to come after 8am. “If deliveries come early, we can’t help it,” he says.

“We are considerate contractors,” he says. “We have done everything we are supposed to do and more.”

The council has inspected the site and so has the Health and Safety Authority, he says.

On occasion they might need to work outside the normal hours, says O’Regan. In those cases they will apply for a special permission from the council, known as a derogation, he says.

“Like any construction site there will be certain things that will be outside the hours,” he says.

On 29 November, O’Regan wrote to residents to tell them that there will be a delivery at 6am on Thursday 1 December and that he has received permission from Dublin City Council to allow it.

Dublin City Council didn’t respond in time for publication to queries as to how many derogations it has granted so far this year for construction work to take place outside of normal working hours.

As well as the dust, residents complain about excessive noise and big trucks trundling up and down their laneway. “It’s very worrying that we are looking at two years of this,” says Paddy Harris.

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Author:

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

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