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'It bypasses the democratic process': Eight-storey apartment block approved despite local TDs' concerns

245 apartments are set to be constructed as part of the development on Finglas Road.

AN BORD PLEANÁLA has been accused of “bypassing the democratic process” after granting permission for an eight-storey apartment block in north Dublin.

Plans submitted by Ruirside Developments in August to construct 245 apartments, a creche and associated works at the former Premier Dairies site in Finglas were approved by the planning authority last week.

The proposal will see a mix of 49 studio, 73 one-bedroom and 123 two-bedroom apartments constructed in three buildings ranging from six to ten storeys tall, as well as a childcare facility, 131 parking spaces, and a large communal space.

Ruirside applied for planning permission for the development through the strategic housing scheme, introduced in June 2017.

The scheme allows developers to bypass local authorities and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission if developments are a specific size, a move intended to speed up the provision of housing and student accommodation.

The board granted approval for the apartment block, but attached a condition that the maximum height of the development was reduced to eight storeys.

However, locals remain unhappy with several aspects of the proposals, particularly as an agreement had been reached with the previous owner of the site not to build a development more than six storeys tall.

Local TDs Noel Rock, Dessie Ellis and Roisín Shorthall joined nearby residents in expressing concerns about the proposals as part of submissions to the board during the application phase.

The submissions highlighted that the proposed development would not cater for families and was contrary to the Dublin City Development Plan, which requires developments to contain at least 15% three or more bedroom units.

Further concerns were raised about the height of the development and its potential impact on locals in a nearby housing estate, while it was also argued that the block was not appropriate for the area under National Planning Framework guidelines.

It was also noted that previous applications on the site had been refused on the basis of excessive height, and that it did not contain an adequate number of car parking spaces.

Expensive appeal process

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Rock explained the development would be located further away from a major hub than other strategic developments approved by the board.

“They’re putting it into an area in Finglas that isn’t particularly well-served by public transport as it is, and it’s not a major transport hub,” he said.

“It’s also significantly taller than what locals envisaged, and it will overshadow a number of properties in [nearby housing estate] Glenhill.”

The Fine Gael TD also clarified that he was not against new housing developments, adding that his record showed he had not opposed other recent plans for strategic housing developments in the area.

“I’ve made a habit of the idea of not opposing developments where at all possible, except in rare instances when they’re inappropriate,” he said.

“This is a working class area and people have asked me to stand up for them, so I have. Their only course of appeal now is a judicial review of this decision, which would be extremely expensive.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis decried the strategic housing system as “bypassing the democratic process”, saying that locals would now have to pay “an absolute fortune” to proceed with a review of the development’s approval.

He also insisted that his submission was an observation about the planning process, and not an opposition to a new housing development.

“I’m fuming over these strategic planning guidelines,” he said. “They’re just being abused now, and it’s getting really bad. That’s the issue I wanted to raise.”

Ellis’ comments were echoed by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shorthall, who described the development as “bad planning by any standard”.

“It’s a really dangerous development,” she said. “The board has chosen to squeeze the public out of the planning process.”

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