City council publishes fast-track planning proposals for Dublin Docklands

Move would give council power to make decisions that could not be appealed

The Point Village Watchtower, at 100m, has “very little prospect” of ever being built and would not be viable if permitted, the council said

The Point Village Watchtower, at 100m, has “very little prospect” of ever being built and would not be viable if permitted, the council said

Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 06:07

Proposals for a new fast-track planning scheme for Dublin’s Docklands, giving Dublin City Council the power to make decisions that could not be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, have been published.

The planning scheme is the first published by the local authority since the Government decision last May to wind up the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and transfer its powers to the council.

The Government has sanctioned the designation of 66 hectares of riverside lands, previously under the control of the authority, as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ). The designation means that while the plans for the land are now available for public consultation, once they are approved by city councillors the public will not be able to appeal any planning decisions made by the council in the zone to An Bord Pleanála.

Some key developments, previously approved by the authority, have been eliminated from the council’s plans for the new zone. Skyscrapers such as the 130m U2 Tower and the Point Village Watchtower at 100m have “very little prospect” of ever being built and would not be viable if permitted, the council said.

However, while it is shunning some of the more “extreme proposals” of the past, it said, it is not giving up on the prospect of tall buildings for the area. Buildings of 40-60m in height could still be permitted in key “landmark” locations within the area.

The planning scheme will govern the Grand Canal Dock and North Lotts area, the part of the Docklands closest to the city centre, and the area seen as the most viable in terms of economic development and the provision of housing.

The remaining former authority-controlled lands, including the controversial Glass Bottle site, have not been included in the SDZ. Docklands sites not included in the new zone will shortly be assessed for their potential for inclusion in separate planning schemes, the council said.

The zone includes what the council describes as the “strategic assets” such as the Convention Centre at Spencer Dock, the O2 at the Point Village and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre at Grand Canal Dock.

Within the 66 hectares, about 22 hectares are available for development, which the council says represents significant potential for major economic and community expansion and regeneration. The sites are roughly equivalent in scale to the entire Custom House Docks/IFSC area. Taking this area as a model, the new sites could accommodate 2,600 residential units and 305,000sq m of commercial floorspace, which equates to a residential population of about 5,800 and circa 23,000 workers, the council said.

The zone has been divided into five areas or “hubs”: Spencer Dock, Point Village, Grand Canal Square, Britain Quay and Boland’s Mill, which have been subdivided to make 23 “city blocks”. The council identifies Britain Quay, Boland’s Mill and the Point Square as having the potential to accommodate buildings of 15 storeys or 60m, while Station Square in Spencer Dock would have the capacity for a building of up to 12 storeys or up to 50m.

Crucially, the council says buildings that are more than two storeys under the identified height will not be considered acceptable to safeguard against “unsustainable underdevelopment in a recession”. While the main points of interest in the plan are likely to be the permissible heights and the commercial potential of the zone, the scheme also contains proposals to develop the residential, retail, culture, leisure and tourism potential of the area.

The Government last May decided to wind up the authority after the Comptroller and Auditor General found serious shortcomings in the conduct of its planning and development functions. Submissions on the council’s plans can be made until May 10th.