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Locals concerned over plans to build 299 apartments in blocks of up to 9 storeys in Glasnevin

A Strategic Housing Development application was lodged earlier this month by property developer Scanron Limited.

The former Smurfit Printworks site.
The former Smurfit Printworks site.
Image: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised locally over plans to build 299 apartments in buildings up to nine storeys in height in Glasnevin, north Dublin.

A Strategic Housing Development application was lodged earlier this month by property developer Scanron Limited to build a mix of residential and commercial properties at the former Smurfit Printworks site at the junction of Botanic Road and Iona Road in Glasnevin.

The application was lodged directly to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) under planning rules introduced in December 2016, which allows developments of over 100 residential units or 200 student beds to bypass city planners and go straight to ABP for a decision.

The proposed development – to be named Daneswell Place – will consist of 299 residential apartments (a mix of 1-, 2- and 3 bedroom units), a childcare facility, a café/ restaurant, a medical consultant unit, as well as management spaces and community facilities.

It will also include 171 car park spaces, close to 500 cycle spaces, a playground and a public open space.

This will all be spread across five blocks, which will range from five to nine storeys in height. The tallest 9-storey building will reach a height of 25.9 metres. 

Local Fianna Fáil representative Mary Fitzpatrick has said that local members of the surrounding communities had approached her with concerns over the height of some of the planned apartment blocks.

“Let me clear, we desperately need houses… and I’m in favour of density and height,” she told TheJournal.ie.

However, Fitzpatrick said that locals in surrounding areas were concerned about the height of the proposed blocks and the density of the apartments in relation to the area in which they would be built. 

“Everyone recognises the severity of the housing crisis and the desperate need for affordable homes in our area,” Fitzpatrick wrote in a letter to residents of nearby Iona and surrounding areas.

However residents are concerned over the proposed excessive height and scale of the development which will exceed the height of the Phibsborough Shopping Centre Tower.

The surrounding area is made up mostly of two- to three-storey semi-detached and terraced homes.

It is unclear if any of the proposed apartments will be earmarked as affordable homes. Under planning laws, 10% of the full development must be provided to Dublin City Council for social housing.

The application to ABP proposes to meet this requirement by providing seven one-bed apartments and 26 two-bedroom apartments for use as social housing (33 in total).

The site will also be along the route of the planned new MetroLink, close to the Glasnevin stop. There are also concerns about the effect the new apartments will have on traffic in the area, which already sees congestion at peak times.

IMG_20190329_171825 The entrance to the site. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Smurfit site history 

The new units will join 35 homes already being built by Scanron. The four- and five-bedroom homes are on the market for between €880,000 and 1.25 million.

Scanron’s application to ABP is an update on previous planning permission that was granted on the site.

The former Smurfit printworks site was sold during the recession to the Irish subsidiary of English firm Westhill Land & Property Ltd. 

Planning permission was sought by the company – IDV Developments Ltd – in 2015 for 131 residential units (88 apartments and 43 houses) to be built on the site. This was objected to by a number of local residents at the time. 

Permission was granted, and the decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala. ABP upheld the decision to grant permission, but reduced the number of apartments by 12 (to 76). 

The Irish Times reported in 2017 that the site with planning permission was then sold to a company called Eastwise Homes for a reported price of close €18 million. Building work began on the 35 homes overseen by Eatwise-linked company Scanron. 

The latest application to ABP was submitted by Scanron earlier this month and represents a significant scaling up of the project. It is proposed that an additional 223 apartments will be built on the site, with a reduction of the number of houses. 

Height restrictions

The Dublin City Council Development Plan 2016 – 2022 proposes height restrictions on buildings in certain areas of the city. Specific reference is made to the Smurfit site in the plan:

“Phibsborough will remain a low rise area with the exception of allowing for (i) up to a max of 19 m in the centre of the Smurfit site and immediately adjoining the proposed railway station at Cross Guns Bridge,” the plan states. 

Scanron’s application contains a material contravention statement as to why its proposed development – with heights of up to 25.9m – should be permitted. 

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy published new guidelines in December of last year which lifted the maximum height restrictions imposed by councils. The move overrides local councillors’ ability to restrict the heights of buildings. 

National policy – as laid out in the Ireland 2040 document released last year -  set out a long-term vision for infrastructure development in the country on the basis that the country’s population would rise by around one million people in the next two decades.

A ruling by ABP last year said ministerial guidelines and national objectives justified planning permission being granted for a 29m block in Dublin’s city centre, showing the movement away from height restrictions. 

Scanron in its material contravention statement argues that the Dublin city development plan is overridden by national policy objectives and that the height restrictions should be lifted when a development “comprises a high quality proposal which will create an exemplary living environment for future residents”.

Local councillor Cieran Perry said he had “serious concerns” about the potential for this development and others to override the development plan voted on and agreed by councillors. 

“Height is my main concern,” Perry told TheJournal.ie.

“We want proper, sustainable planning… the nine storey height [in this area] is incomprehensible,” he said. 

Perry stressed the need for homes in Dublin, but said that proper sustainable planning was needed. 

“I have serious concerns about the height and the [contravention] of the development plan… but I’ll take guidance from the residents on this,” he said. 

An information session is planned for Monday evening organised by Mary Fitzpatrick and the Iona and District Residents’ Association. 

In her leaflet, Fitzpatrick said the meeting would “give residents an opportunity to view the plans, discuss the application and if agreed prepare a submission to An Bord Pleanála”. 

Submissions must be made to ABP by close of business on 9 April. 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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