File photo of green grass and a blue sky with white clouds and a long industrial building at the old Chivers factory site in Coolock. Photo by Sean Finnan.
File photo of land at the old Chivers factory site in Coolock. Photo by Sean Finnan.

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The owners of the former Chivers factory site in Coolock have written to Dublin City Council to argue that part of an old industrial site rezoned for housing by councillors five years ago shouldn’t be subject to a new tax targeted at vacant land left undeveloped.
The site isn’t serviced because connections to gas, water and sewers aren’t immediately available, says a submission from the owners.
Works need to be done by Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, they wrote. “These are existing operational services that severely constrain any redevelopment of these lands.”
This appears to contradict what the company said in an email last year, written by a director of Platinum Land, Andrew Gillick to the Minister for Housing, Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien.
Andrew Gillick, in addition to being a director of the UK company Platinum Land, is also a director of the Irish company Veni Vidi Vici, which, property records show, owns the land in Coolock.
Building work could commence immediately on the site if they could line up the funding, wrote Gillick, in correspondence first released to the Business Post under the Freedom of Information Act. “We could start on this affordable housing now, next week,” he wrote.
The Residential Zoned Land Tax is due to come into effect in 2024, hitting landowners with a levy set at 3 percent of the market value of a site. The plan is for the RZLT to replace the 7 percent Vacant Sites Levy.
“We need to ensure that land which has benefited from appropriate zoning and servicing and has gained planning permission is developed quickly in all counties and settlements in the State,” said O’Brien, the housing minister, as he announced guidelines for the Residential Zoned Land Tax in June 2022.
Councils are currently mapping the sites to which the new tax will apply, those lands zoned and serviced for residential housing as of January 2022, according to the Revenue Commissioners.
Joseph Kilroy, head of policy and public affairs with the Chartered Institute of Building, says he has seen submissions from other landowners arguing that their sites should be exempt from the tax because they are not fully serviced, because the schemes aren’t viable, and because the land is being used for some other purpose.
Land in urban areas should ordinarily be serviced, says Kilroy. In fact, councils shouldn’t zone land for housing unless they are suitable, he says.
“There seems to be tension between the argument that the piece of land cannot be built out because it doesn’t have sufficient services and infrastructure and the fact that at some point the land has been zoned for housing because – in the view of the local planning authority – it is appropriate for that use,” he says.
If developers can’t get finance to build developments for which they have permission, Kilroy says, that flags that there shouldn’t be so much reliance on private finance to build most homes.
Platinum Land didn’t respond to email queries sent Thursday and a phone message left Tuesday.

A Site in Focus

In March 2018, Dublin city councillors voted in favour of rezoning part of the old Chivers factory site in Coolock, following lobbying by the landowners, who promised to build 350 affordable homes with amenities including a crèche, leisure facilities and a local shop.
Slides shown to local councillors at the area committee had noted that they were “hopeful of starting on site late 2018 with first occupation in 2019”.
A month later, Andrew Gillick and his brother Maurice Gillick, also a director of Veni Vidi Vici, put their initial plans on display for local residents to go and see.
In May 2019, some councillors said they felt duped when Platinum Land applied for planning permission for a different scheme – one that was taller and more dense, and without a local shop. An Bord Pleanála granted permission for 495 homes.
In December 2020, Platinum Land secured new planning permission, upping the number of homes on the site to 550.
In 2021, the Chivers site was listed for sale for €25 million. But it does not appear to have been sold.
Last year, Andrew Gillick wrote multiple times to the Land Development Agency (LDA) and the Minister for Housing asking for the state to finance the scheme.
“I have a site for 550 units in Coolock that is fully ready to go now,” he wrote to the Land Development Agency in April 2022. He said that building work could commence immediately and that he was “raring to go”.
But two recent submissions to the council – one by planning consultants and one directly from the landowners – say the site would need major infrastructure works before construction could commence.
A foul sewer that passes through the site needs to be diverted, says the submission, and without the diversion the scheme can’t be connected to the sewerage system. “This is a critical piece of infrastructure that is necessary for the operational phase of the extant housing permission,” says the submission.
There is also no gas connection it says. There are issues too with the water connection.
“The permitted development is co-ordinated with the wayleave that will be required for the diverted watermain which traverses the site,” says the submission. “The position of all buildings are outside of the 6m wide wayleave to comply with Irish Waters requirements.”
It is not clear if these types of works mean that the land is not serviced, for the purposes of the Residential Zoned Land Tax’s definition of the term.
“In general, land is serviced where it has sufficient access to the infrastructure required for residential development,” says the Revenue Commissioners website. “This includes roads, paths, lighting and access to water supply and services, including sewers and drainage.”
The submission from the planning consultants says the landowners have been unable to develop the site for two reasons. One is “procedural issues with planning legislation”, but the other is redacted.
“Our clients are actively seeking to develop the subject lands,” the submission says, before laying out those efforts.
The landowners first got planning permission for 495 homes in August 2019, and another for 550 homes in December 2020. But the second permission took 11 months to be dealt with, the submissions says, which was almost a year of the five-year permission already gone once granted.
After that, the scheme went to detailed design, it says. “The costs associated with servicing the site means that the scheme [redacted].”
The landowners engaged with Dublin City Council officials in 2022 to scope the options available to them to extend the life term of the extant permission, says the submission.
But if they haven’t started work on the site, they can’t extend it, they said, and so are preparing to lodge a new planning application.
“They were advised that as works have not commenced, there is no provision in the planning code to extend the permission.”
They anticipated a pre-planning meeting – the meetings between council planners and developers ahead of a formal application – in the first quarter of this year, says the submission.

A Few Questions

“The principle is extremely sound,” says Kilroy, the head of policy and public affairs with the Chartered Institute of Building. “We need a tax on unproductive uses of land.”
The discussion around exemptions to this tax raises a few questions, says Kilroy.
It is not totally clear that the state should be responsible for providing all the infrastructure for private development, he says. But the exemption for unserviced land seems to suggest that this is up to the state to sort out.
In general, urban sites should not have major issues with services and infrastructure, says Kilroy.
If landowners with planning permission are saying that those lands are not serviced that indicates that better oversight is required around zoning, he says. “It would appear from some of the applications for exemptions that maybe they shouldn’t have been zoned for housing.”
Those are usually sites in remote locations that may not have access to connect to mains water, for example.
Build-to-rent schemes shouldn’t have been granted planning permission unless they are in places with good transport links, he says, so it would be surprising if those places weren’t serviced. “In an urban area you would think that it should be serviced.”
Councils should only zone land for housing if the land is well suited for that purpose, says Kilroy.
Some landowners have argued that they shouldn’t have to pay the tax because the land is already being used for something else, he says.
One submission said that the residentially zoned land was currently being used as a surface car park, says Kilroy.
But that’s exactly the kind of use that the tax should be used to get rid of, he says. “Any suggestion that a piece of land that has been zoned for housing is reaching its full potential in use as a surface car park, is certainly not in keeping with national planning policy.”
Landowners have also argued that a piece of land might no longer be commercially viable, because of inflating construction costs, he says.
That issue exposes the fact that the state is overly reliant on market-led housing, he says. “This flags that the market-led housing model is subject to economic cycles and can’t build counter-cyclically.”
He thinks the tax is too low, he says. If the value of land is increasing above the cost of the tax then it might not work, he says. “It only works if it outstrips inflation.”

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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1 Comment

  1. 5 years.. And mistakes all round by the Council / the Government. The crowd who purchased the LAND now want the state to pick up the tab for their oversights…. While their GREED in re-jigging the initial planning is appalling. They should be fined for not using it. But its OK to short lease an amusement park on it from time to time… Longer its left – the more costly it will be to develop.!!

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