Office of Planning Regulator refuses to attend Dublin City Council meeting to explain orders on build-to-rent schemes

City councillors of all parties and Independents said regulator’s ‘snub’ for second time was ‘affront to democracy’

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has for a second time refused to attend a Dublin City Council meeting to explain its orders on build-to-rent (BTR) schemes in the city.

Councillors of all parties and Independents said the regulator’s “snub” was “an affront to democracy”.

The regulator has clashed with the council and chief executive Owen Keegan over the council’s plans for BTR restrictions in the upcoming city development plan. Councillors, senior planners and Mr Keegan have said limits are needed to curb the unsustainable dominance of BTR applications in the city.

Deputy planning regulator Anne Marie O’Connor earlier this year told the council to remove policies from the draft development plan requiring 40 per cent of build-to-rent apartments to be larger than stipulated under ministerial guidelines. The council was also ordered not to block the development of small build-to-rent schemes of fewer than 100 apartments.


In response to the regulator’s submission, Mr Keegan said the “over-dominance” of BTR schemes in Dublin has become “unsustainable” with the potential to have “significant long-term adverse impacts on the housing needs of the city”. He recommended councillors press ahead with restrictions on build-to-rent schemes in the new city development plan.

Councillors last month agreed to write to regulator Niall Cussen requesting his attendance, or that of a representative, at a council meeting to explain his opposition to the BTR curbs. However, Mr Cussen declined saying this would likely spark a flurry of similar requests from other local authorities.

Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland again wrote to Mr Cussen and Ms O’Connor to invite them to a meeting on Monday, noting that councillors were calling on “the OPR to reconsider its position, noting a cross-party desire to hear from the office and engage in constructive dialogue”.

In response Ms O’Connor wrote that it would “not be appropriate to attend” the meeting.

Councillors said the refusal to attend the meeting was undemocratic.

“We simply requested a dialogue with the OPR in City Hall to bring greater transparency and accountability to this process. This request has been inexplicably denied and the chance for democratic accountability has been lost as a result,” they said in a statement.

“We have cancelled Monday’s meeting as a result and are rescheduling to meet at a time of the OPR’s choosing.”

In a statement on Sunday the OPR said: “Contrary to statement the by DCC councillors, it is not the function of the OPR to force Dublin City Council (or any local authority) to comply with our recommendations.” The OPR may make a recommendation to the Minister for Housing to issue a direction to a local authority, it said, but “it is ultimately the decision and legal function of the Minister whether or not a direction issues.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times