Standoff over plan for 2,000 homes at Leopardstown as horse racing body looks to hotel and sprint track

Dublin site is zoned for residential development, is beside Luas stop and ‘substantially ready’ to provide housing

Two State bodies are involved in a “standoff” over the development of a prime site next to Leopardstown racecourse.

The Land Development Agency (LDA) wants to develop up to 2,080 homes on the land, which is owned by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the local authority, adjacent to the famous racetrack.

However, HRI is in the process of developing its own masterplan for the site, which is expected to include a range of amenities beyond housing – including a hotel and events centre, and the possibility of an equestrian sprint track. Such a plan would be expected to feature a housing element, but likely at a lower level than that envisaged by the LDA.

In its Report on Relevant Public Land – a scoping exercise assessing how much housing could be built on State lands produced earlier this year – the LDA estimated that between 1,550 and 2,080 homes could be built on the site at an estimated cost of up to €535.5 million.


The site is zoned for residential development and has a nearby Luas stop. It is currently being used as a temporary car park and Traveller accommodation, as well as containing undeveloped vacant land. It is considered by the LDA as “class one” among the lands considered by the report, meaning it has the least constraints and is “substantially ready” for near to medium-term development as housing.

However, the agency – which was set up to streamline and co-ordinate the development of housing on State lands – is expected to face pushback from several State bodies whose lands it has targeted.

This in turn is causing frustration in the Government, with one senior Coalition source saying the Leopardstown lands were subject to a tug of war “while Rome [is] burning”. Another Government source described the situation as a “standoff”.

The HRI lands at Carrickmines were also previously identified by the Government’s cornerstone housing policy, Housing For All.

A spokeswoman for HRI said it was “actively engaging with all stakeholders regarding the development of a masterplan for the Leopardstown racecourse campus”.

“Development of that masterplan is essential to support the continued viability of Leopardstown racecourse as one of Europe’s premier racetracks, and a major leisure facility in county Dublin, by encouraging its future development and facilitating the development of supporting facilities.”

The spokeswoman said work on the masterplan was advanced but would not comment on what it contained, saying it was “premature to speculate on what that final plan will entail”. Asked for comment, a spokesman for the LDA said it identified 83 sites, including the Carrickmines one, as part of its recent report, which had the potential to deliver 67,000 new affordable homes over the medium to long term.

“The LDA is now actively engaged in consultation with the relevant State bodies and with the Government to establish which sites should be prioritised. This consultation process is ongoing and includes constructive consultation with the HRI.”

The Opposition has targeted the LDA over its anticipated level of output, with Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns saying its plans were “pathetic”, while Sinn Féin has said it can do nothing to force State agencies to hand over land as it had not been equipped with comprehensive compulsory purchase order powers.

Alongside the Carrickmines site, other lands in the capital identified as being suitable for affordable housing include land at the Central Bank mint in Sandyford and CIÉ's bus depot at Conyngham Road.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times