Appeals board rejects council’s proposals to limit docklands height increases

Council sought amendments to Grand Canal Docks planning scheme

An Bord Pleanála has thrown out Dublin City Council's proposals to permit only modest height increases in tower blocks for a strategic site in Dublin's Docklands.

The appeals board rejected the city council’s proposed amendments to the 2014 North Lotts and Grand Canal Docks Special Development Zone (SDZ) Planning Scheme which allowed for what the board describes as only “minimal” increases in building height in the area.

In its formal direction, board member, Paul Hyde said that the board considers the city council's proposed amendments "to be a missed opportunity to accommodate much needed residential homes and commercial floor space for a growing and changing population, demographics and employment sector within the city centre on a strategic and well serviced land bank".

The board pointed out that the proposed amendments to the 2014 scheme provide for an increase of only 225 residential units and proposed increases in commercial floor space were equally restrictive.


Developer Johnny Ronan plans to build two 40-plus storey towers in the zone in his Waterfront South Central project and Dublin City Council planners have voiced their opposition to the plan as they claim it breaches the 2014 North Lotts and Grand Canal Docks SDZ planning scheme concerning building heights.

Now, in a stern rebuke to the council’s proposed amendments to the SDZ scheme, the appeals board said that “options to consider greater housing provision within this strategic location have not been fully assessed and have not been realised”.

The board said that of the 29 submissions received by the council, 21 sought greater height.

The board rejected its own inspector’s recommendation to allow the amendments after stating that it was not satisfied that the proposed amendments fully reflected national policy objectives to deliver compact growth and/or the promotion of height in the Urban Development & Building Height Guidelines given the very minimal changes proposed.

Height for the sake of height

On behalf of the board, Mr Hyde said that the fundamental intention of the guidelines was not to introduce height for the sake of height, but to introduce and consider heights and densities as a means of accommodating greater residential accommodation within zoned land banks.

Mr Hyde said that the board was concerned that the implications and potential impact of not facilitating meaningful population growth within the SDZ “could place greater demands to provide housing in locations further away from services and the city centre”.

In a submission, Dublin Chamber had said that the proposed amendments by the council lacked ambition while IDA Ireland said Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would be promoted by maximising height, density and flexibility.

In response to submissions calling for increased heights over what was proposed, the council said that its amendments were based on sound urban design principles.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council said on Wednesday that the council “will not be in a position to make a comment until we have fully reviewed the decision and the inspector’s report”.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times