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Beechpark, at Scholarstown Road. Google Streetview

Plans for 500 build-to-rent apartments at Liam Cosgrave's former home

An archaeological discovery of “medium-high” significance was made at the Knocklyon site earlier this year.

PLANS HAVE BEEN lodged for close to 600 apartments in south Dublin on lands previously owned by former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave.

The application to build 590 apartments at lands on Scholarstown Road in Knocklyon, Dublin 16, was submitted last week to An Bord Pleanála by Ardstone Homes Ltd under fast track planning laws.

The proposed Strategic Housing Development (SHD) consists of 480 build-to-rent apartments and 110 build-to-sell units.

The build-to-rent units will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments spread across eight blocks up to six storeys in height. The build-to-sell units will be a mix of two- and three-bedroom apartments spread across nine duplex blocks three storeys in height.

The proposed development also includes space for a gym, creche as well as retail and café units and car park spaces.

The development will cover an area of over five hectares of land once owned by former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Ardstone bought the land in 2018 following the death of Cosgrave in October 2017.

The site was the subject of media attention earlier this year after the partial skeletal remains of 83 individuals were uncovered during an archaeological excavation. The remains are part of a settlement believed to date back to the early medieval period.

The proposed development includes the demolition of two dwellings on the land: a bungalow named “Beechpark”, which was the home of Cosgrave, and a two-storey dwelling named “Maryfield”.

Maryfield The entrance to 'Maryfield'. Google Streetview Google Streetview

A separate application to demolish the Beechpark dwelling and carry out site works was lodged by Ardstone with South Dublin County Council in March of this year and faced significant local objection.

SDCC granted permission for the demolition of the bungalow in July. Two local residents’ groups as well as Fianna Fáil TD for the area John Lahart appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála.

A decision on this appeal is due next month.

In his appeal, Lahart states that it is “unusual” for a proposed Strategic Housing Development to be split in such a way that planning permission is sought from a local authority for one aspect of the development while a full planning application is made to ABP for the residential aspect.

He said the primary reason for his appeal related to the discovery of the “significant” archaeological remains and structures on the lands.

Archaeological significance

An archaeological excavation of the site was completed by experts acting on behalf of Ardstone under licence to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht between November 2018 and March 2019 as part of a wider archaeological and cultural heritage assessment of the lands.

The excavation uncovered the partial human remains of 83 individuals. The remains of 60 adults, 19 juveniles, two infants and two perinatals were uncovered. Human bone fragments found at the site were dated to 617-688 AD.

It is believed that human activity at the site could have extended from the early medieval period (400-1200 AD) to as late as the late medieval/ Anglo-Norman period (post-1200 AD). A preliminary excavation report was submitted to the department in May 2019, with a full report due to be completed by February 2020.

An Archaeological and Cultural Heritage report submitted as part of the SHD planning application categorises the Scholarstown site as being of “medium-high” significance.

“It is a good example of its type, and important to our understanding of settlement and burial in the south County Dublin area,” the report states.

Two other test excavations were carried out at the site in June and August but uncovered no features of archaeological significance.

Lahart states in his appeal that there were “conflicting accounts concerning the significance of the archaeological discoveries”. He called for these discrepancies to be clarified through an independent review of the findings of the excavation.

Lahart also requested an oral hearing of the appeal which was refused by An Bord Pleanála.

Commenting on Monday, Lahart said it would have been “respectful to the local community” if Ardstone awaited the Bord’s decision on the appeal before it went ahead with the full SHD planning application.

He said that aside from concerns over the archaeological heritage of the site he was concerned that a significant majority of the proposed apartments would be build-to-rent.

“I’m very concerned that the Strategic Housing Development process facilitates multiple build-to-rent apartments which aren’t I think good for communities and this one is no different to that,” he said.

“What we want to see is quality residential development that is able to contribute to the existing stock of residential and I don’t think majority build-to-rent does that.”

Lahart said he would liaise with local community groups over what action they will take in relation to the proposed development.

A decision on the application is due on 10 March 2020.

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