On a recent Thursday afternoon across from Markievicz Park on Ballyfermot Road, there is a smell of dust in the air. As a bus drives past, dust rises off the road.
June Byrne is on her way home from work in a local school. She feels wrecked, she says. She was awake all night coughing – and the problem is the dust.
Byrne suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects her breathing. But the condition was under control using medication, she says, until recently.
Since construction kicked off on a large nearby site a couple of months ago, her COPD is no longer under control, she says. “I’m on the nebuliser every night,” says Byrne, as she covers her mouth with her hand.
Another local resident, Rory G. Cashin, says: “Just listen to this. This is what I recorded the other morning.” He plays a recording of a loud repetitive banging noise, taken early one day from inside his bedroom, he says.
Says Byrne: “You are awake all night not being able to breathe and then the banging starts.”
Like Byrne, Cashin also has COPD and his breathing is audibly strained. He used to use his nebuliser four times a day, but now he is up to six times, he says.
Dwyer Nolan Developments Ltd is building 927 homes on the site of the old De La Salle national school on the Ballyfermot Road, a complex that will reach 13 storeys at its highest point.
It didn’t respond to queries sent by email on Friday and Monday about whether anything more could be done to reduce the dust, why all the necessary paperwork wasn’t submitted and whether a plan to mitigate vibrations and dust – and to monitor both – has now been agreed with the council.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council says it is investigating possible planning breaches at the site.
In April, the council sent the developer a letter, warning that the council believed the developer was about to start construction having not yet met 19 of the **36 **planning conditions laid out in the planning permission.
One of those conditions was to submit for a plan to deal with the dust.
The consultant for the developer has since submitted what it was supposed to before it started work under planning conditions, according to an email sent by staff in Dublin City Council to Right to Change Councillor Sophie Nicoullaud.
Dust and noise
The builders are dampening down the dust. At times, on Thursday afternoon a worker sprays water along the road and at other times a truck sprays water from underneath.
But those measures don’t appear to be doing enough to stop the spread of dust.
“There was a crunch in my mouth, I could feel the dust,” says Nicoullaud, the Right to Change councillor, who visited the site on the Ballyfermot Road earlier this month.
She saw dust all over the inside of a house too, she says.
Byrne says the hot weather isn’t helping. “Since the weather got good, it’s actually getting worse.”
Cashin says he wrote to the council and complained that the dust is impacting him so badly that he can’t use his garden. He can’t hang out washing because the dust dirties the clothes, he says.
“I opened the blinds the other day, they were destroyed,” says another neighbour, Albert McCarthy.
The dust is visible on his windowsills and he no longer gets his windows washed because it’s pointless, he says. Not opening the windows means it’s stuffy inside his home.
Children wrote “please wash me” on his car, says McCarthy. He thought that was funny. But he is seriously worried about how long the issues with dust and noise will go on, he says.
Given it’s such a large development, he figures the construction could take several years.
Dwyer Nolan Developments Ltd didn’t respond to questions about whether there is more they could do to stop the dust spreading from the site.
Cashin said that they could install green mesh along the top of the existing fence.
“The building site concerned is under current investigation by the Planning Enforcement Section,” said a spokesperson for Dublin City Council.
“A number of inspections have been carried out to date to determine the appropriate course of action,” says the spokesperson. “As this is the subject of ongoing enforcement investigations and action no further comment can be made at this time.”
Earlier this month, a member of council staff wrote to Nicoullaud and said that it had issued a warning letter to the developer in April 2023.
That was because it was about to begin construction without having met 19 conditions laid out in the planning permission, the email said.
Those conditions include that the developer should agree on a plan to monitor dust and noise with the council before starting construction, according to the planning order, issued by An Bord Pleanála.
It should also have a plan in place to mitigate both dust and noise.
The developer didn’t respond in time for publication to queries sent Monday as to whether those plans are now in place.
Nicoullaud says it’s worrying that there was such a long list of conditions with which the developer failed to comply from the beginning. “This is only the beginning with a site of a thousand units,” she said.