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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Concerns of over-development in Dublin 8 as 'Docklands-style makeover' proposed

Dublin 8 locals have watched student accommodation and development across historic areas like Thomas Street.

The former John Player factory on South Circular Road
The former John Player factory on South Circular Road
Image: Google Maps

OVER-DEVELOPMENT IN Dublin 8 could “damage communities” as developers from Dublin’s Docklands seek new space to build, planning experts have warned. 

It was reported earlier this week that a number of major sites in Dublin’s Liberties are set for redevelopment in what is being termed a ‘Docklands-style makeover’. 

Diageo plans to transform 12.6 acres at James’s Gate into a new urban quarter comprising 500 new homes, hotel and leisure space including the transformation of historic spaces near the Guinness brewery. 

At Heuston station, 245 apartments are planned by Henderson Park Capital. Meanwhile, 500 apartments, a hotel and office space is planned for the Hickey’s site on Parkgate Street in Dublin 8.

At the historic Player Wills site on South Circular Road, 1,400 apartments are planned with new streets, parks and local amenities. The developers have said the homes on the site will be predominantly build-to-rent. 

Newmarket Square looks set to be transformed further with 75,000 sq ft of office space planned. On Thomas Street, developer Harry Crosbie - synonymous with Celtic Tiger-era developments like The Point Depot and Dublin’s Docklands – is planning a new 185-bedroom hotel. 

In recent years, Dublin 8 locals have watched student accommodation and development spring up across historic areas like Thomas Street. 

So far this year, Dublin 8 locals have protested the demolition of community allotments and the continued vacancy of the former factory on Dublin’s South Circular Road. 

Dublin City Council has, meanwhile, undertaken a number of initiatives in the area including lighting, pavement and shopfront improvements.

Criticism of Dublin 8′s “makeover” has been rife for years. Is it too late to learn from past mistakes? Could Dublin 8 really become Dublin’s new Docklands?

‘Rapid development’

Orla Hegarty, assistant professor at UCD’s School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy notes that it is 30 years since development at Dublin’s Docklands commenced and that Dublin’s Docklands was largely industrial pre-development while Dublin 8 is more residential and urban with smaller scale traditional industries.

“When people see images and proposals for new buildings there’s often a tendency to think this is happening very soon,” Hegarty has said. “We have seen waves and waves, in different property cycles and recessions, different proposals.”

However, the rate of development in Dublin 8 in recent years has been “rapid,” Hegarty adds. 

For people in Dublin 8, the concern is that’s there’s been a lot of very rapid development in the last few years, mostly hotels and student housing which has displaced a lot of the existing population.

It’s important to note that Dublin’s City Development Plan sets the framework for how development proceeds in the city, Hegarty said. 

It sets out proportion of open space, amenities, heights, density, zoning for particular types of development in Dublin. 

However, decisions about what will be built on individual site and when it happens are made by developers, and this is dictated by other factors, including the availability of finance, profitability and market pressures. 

In recent years, hotels and students housing have been more profitable, so “now we are likely to see co-living blocks and small build to rent apartments, rather than affordable housing where there is a development gain for the community,” Hegarty says.

Local Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan fears that, with the onset of development, housing is becoming unaffordable in Dublin 8 and that very few residential units are being built, she told TheJournal.ie.

Should development Dublin 8 continue along these lines, community facilities could be lacking. 

‘Long-term sustainability’ 

Interventions from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government have also undermined the prospect of urban family housing in Dublin, by introducing more profitable competitors, UCD’s Hegarty adds. 

In December 2018, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told local authorities that a height increase in Ireland’s cities was a crucial development if the country was “to meet the many challenges ahead.” The government has since published new guidelines under the National Planning Framework to help make that happen.

Balanced development, however, is key, says Hegarty. Proliferation of one type of development in Dublin 8 has created a more transient population, which displaces and ‘prices out’ a more long-term and sustainable community similar to Dublin’s Docklands. 

It is widely acknowledged that Dublin’s Docklands did little to benefit local communities in East Wall, Ringsend and Sheriff Street. Dublin City Council only have limited tools to work to address this.

Former Green Party Councillor, MEP Ciarán Cuffe, told TheJournal.ie that various Dublin 8 sites set for redevelopment remain privately owned “so the council will have limited influence over what happens.”

“The question arises is what proportion of these sites will be residential [housing],” says Cuffe.

Dublin’s Docklands is, by and large, a privately owned postcode. Communities have been sidelined. “Public space” is, by and large, privately-owned space subject to different rules. 

As Hegarty notes: “The Docklands land is nearly all used up…Developers who are running out of opportunities in the Docklands [are] looking for someone else and bringing the same model.”

Gradual gentrification is positive, Hegarty says, “but what you have [in Dublin 8] in parts of the city is really rapid gentrification which has effectively damaged established communities and pushed people out.”

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