Religious properties may be rezoned


LAND OWNED BY religious congregations in Dublin will be zoned to allow for residential development if proposals put forward by Dublin City Council are approved.

Some 770 hectares of land on 186 sites across the city are being proposed for the new zoning.

More than half the land is held by religious institutions.

The properties involved include more than 130 primary and secondary schools, third-level colleges, health facilities, barracks and museums.

Among the schools are Muckross Park College, Donnybrook; Alexandra College, Milltown; St Louis High School, Rathmines; and the Sisters of Charity St Mary’s home and school for the blind in Dublin.

All Hallows College in Drumcondra and Marino Institute of Education, Dublin, are included, as is RTÉ’s complex at Montrose in Donnybrook.

The lands involved had been zoned Z15, to protect community and institutional uses, in the Dublin City Council Development Plan 2011-2017.

Other uses were “open for consideration” under the zoning, with residential development specifically excluded.

Legal action taken by the Sisters of Charity resulted in the High Court quashing that zoning last June.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke said the council failed to give adequate reasons for such “highly restrictive” zoning.

Concerns had been raised at the time the land was zoned that the grounds of schools and other institutions were being sold off for residential development.

The proposed new zoning will also be called Z15 and will read: “to protect and provide for institutional and community uses and to ensure that existing amenities are protected”.

Permissible uses under the plan will include health, safety and welfare, childcare, community, educational, medical, public worship and residential institution.

Uses “open for consideration” will include bed and breakfast, conference centre, funeral home, hotel and residential development.

The zoning will also include the condition that any proposed development in this “open for consideration” category must demonstrate it secures “the retention of the main institutional and community uses on the site”.

In a report to councillors, the council said it was evident the 770 hectares were “an important resource” for the city.

“The limited release of residential development, subject to strict criteria, could help revitalise certain parts of the city by attracting a younger population,” the report said. This would in turn ensure existing institutional uses were maintained.

The report acknowledged there had been concerns about a “significant loss of institutional and community lands” but said a survey revealed the majority of applications on institutional lands between 2005 and 2011 related to extensions to existing buildings and uses such as convents and nursing homes. Only six applications for residential development were approved on four hectares of land.

“The evidence is that institutional lands have not been significantly eroded by new housing since 2005,” the report said.

Some 167 sites across the city are proposed for the new Z15 zoning, and 19 sites will have the new zoning plus Z1, chiefly for residential development, or Z12, chiefly institutional.

The introduction of the new zoning will require changes to the development plan. Councillors will debate the changes in the coming weeks before they are put out to public consultation. Submissions and concerns raised will be considered before a vote is taken by councillors to accept or reject the changes. It is expected the final vote will be taken by the end of the year or early in 2013.