An Bord Pleanála has given the green light for a controversial €25 million co-living scheme in Ballsbridge by leading property developer, Bartra Property, despite its own planning inspector concluding it would be a "substandard" development.
The board rejected an appeal by several local residents against the decision of Dublin City Council to grant planning permission for the build-to-rent, shared living development on the site of a current guesthouse opposite the British embassy on Merrion Road.
It also ignored the recommendation of its own planning inspector that approval for the project should be refused as it was contrary to design standards for new apartment buildings which state that co-living developments should only be in city centre areas at locations where there was a specific accommodation need.
The inspector advised that approval should also be withheld as the plans provided insufficient communal living and kitchen facilities which would result in a “substandard” development for future occupants.
“The proposal would be contrary to national and local policies which seek to deliver attractive and desirable housing options in appropriate locations,” the inspector stated.
However, the board said that the proposed development would constitute an acceptable form of residential building in an accessible urban location, subject to compliance with a number of conditions,
The board said it did not accept its own inspector’s recommendation as it regarded the site as in a central and accessible location for Ballsbridge which it regarded as a significant employment location as well as the site’s proximity to the city centre and other employment clusters and public transport.
It also claimed the development was located in an area “replete with civic amenities” while the provision of 4.3m² of kitchen/dining space combined with cooking facilities in individual rooms was consistent with similar co-living schemes already approved.
Bartra, which was founded by well-known property developer Richard Barrett, was partially successful in its own appeal against the council's ruling that it should reduce the number of proposed bed spaces from 111 to 93.
The board sanctioned the provision of 105 bed spaces, claiming six units should be omitted in order to provide a satisfactory standard of residential amenity by increasing the size of communal kitchen/dining rooms.
Bartra had argued that the loss of several units threatened the viability of the project, while adding that many international employers such as Facebook provided meals in the workplace which would result in less demand for communal kitchen space.
The development provides for the demolition of the existing guesthouse, the Ballsbridge Townhouse, and the construction of a five-storey property with communal living, kitchen and dining rooms on each floor.
Other facilities include a gymnasium, TV/cinema room, function room, roof terraces, launderette and linen store.
Bartra claims its shared living scheme addresses the needs of a number of societal groups that are not catered for by standard accommodation models.
The company said the development would be used as short to medium term, non-permanent accommodation “which suits a range of people at various stages of their life who need to remain mobile.”
It said the project represented a significant investment in a strategically located, underutilised brownfield site in a core urban location in Dublin.
The plans had been appealed by five local residents, while 39 objections were made to the council including ones from Dublin Green Party MEP, Ciaran Cuffe; Labour senator, Ivana Bacik and local Sinn Féin TD, Chris Andrews.
Other opponents included An Taisce as well as well-known businessmen, Kevin Toland and Chris Comerford who live in the area.
Objectors claimed the co-living scheme was an inappropriate form of residential development on public health grounds due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as being out of character with other properties on Merrion Road.
Bartra, through its Niche Living corporate vehicle, had already secured planning permission for two other co-living developments in Rathmines and Dún Laoghaire before an effective ban on such schemes was introduced by the Minister for Housing, Darragh O'Brien, last December.