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Nimbyism alive and well in south Dublin planning objections

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown cases show objections do not equate to refusals

Thornhill House in Mount Merrion, in south Dublin: plans for 47 dwellings (mainly apartments) received 125 submissions from local residents.

It is clear that Dublin needs more homes, and as a consequence it needs more development. However, with greenfield sites in short supply in sought-after areas, builders are looking to to build new homes by bulking up existing developments, demolishing homes on generous plots and replacing them with multi-family units, or exploiting infill sites.

Such measures are not always popular in established residential areas and can often attract objections from local residents and, as our table shows, residents in some areas appear more prepared to put pen to paper than others.

While those objecting to proposed developments are generally cognizant of the need for more accommodation, they also fear the impact of multi-storey apartment blocks looming over their homes and gardens, the potential for these new developments to devalue existing properties, and harbour concerns over noise pollution. But in many cases the biggest concern is increased traffic.

Recent measures mean that lodging objections for larger-scale developments with the local authority is now a thing of the past; developers seeking to build blocks of more than 100 homes can bypass local authorities and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála under the new fast-track scheme, introduced as part of the Rebuilding Ireland strategy.

For smaller schemes, however, what do the submissions – which can include both observations and objections, but typically the latter – received by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council over the past year tell us?

There is not a significant pipeline of new development

With fewer than 50 planning applications for new developments with 20 or more units submitted to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council last year, the pipeline is not substantial. If all are approved and subsequently constructed, they will create about 3,800 new units.

It’s not always about density

There were few applications for large-scale developments in south county Dublin over the last year; and they did not necessarily attract the greatest number of objections.

In Sandyford, for example, property investment fund Ires Reit has been trying to get construction under way on a site near its other developments in the business park. It’s looking to build 492 apartments on the Rockbrook site, and although its application was turned down, it is now under appeal with An Bord Pleanála, with a decision due this month. However, despite its scale, over 14 floors, the proposed development attracted only 30 objections, with local residents arguing that the area was becoming “a concrete jungle with constant traffic” and others pointing to noise pollution.

Similarly, Cosgrave’s plans to extend its Honey Park development in Dún Laoghaire by a further 404 units generated zero objections, while a proposal to build 322 units (242 apartments and 80 houses) on land near Cherrywood received just one.

Objections do not equate to planning refusals

Local residents rowing in behind each other to object to a new development do not strengthen the likelihood that a permission will be refused.

Just off Leopardstown Road, for example, plans to build 139 units (133 apartments and six houses) on the site of two existing houses, plus St Joseph’s House for the adult deaf and deaf blind as well as adjoining lands, attracted 169 submissions/objections, the second-highest figure over the year.

The units have an indicative cost, according to planning documents, of €392,572 for a two-bed and €511,828 for a three-bed. In their submissions local residents raised concerns about the density of the proposed “overdevelopment”, as well as its impact on traffic in the area, while others were worried that the scheme might overlook properties in the area, and “significantly reduce the value of our property”. The development received approval, however, although it’s understood that residents are now looking to appeal it to An Bord Pleanála.

Demolition and new development can be contentious

Plans to demolish the home of the late Liam Maye and replace it with 50 apartments plus one bungalow have raised the ire of local residents in Foxrock village, with the proposed four-storey Weavers Hall development receiving the most submissions in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area over the past year, with 172.

Residents are concerned about the scale of the development, its impact on traffic, “devaluation” of properties, loss of privacy due to rooms being overlooked by the apartments, and “disturbance” caused by a playground.

Fine Gael councillor Barry Saul argued that the development would be “visually obtrusive and out of character with the surrounding area”, while it would also have a “detrimental effect” on the nearby Foxrock architecture Conservation Area.

However, despite the objections, the planning process is progressing: the council has asked for additional clarification about the size of some of the apartments and the location of the house, as well as about some drainage issues, but local residents expect planning will be approved.

Extending an existing development is usually treated favourably

Where a site has already been developed once, it’s less likely that residents will object to an extension. At Belarmine in Stepaside, for example, where Castlethorn already has an extensive development, a plan for a further 43 units (six apartments and 37 houses), received just nine objections, and has since got the go-ahead. The units have an indicative cost of €271,000 for a two-bed apartment. This despite the fact, according to one submission, that the site had originally been earmarked for a secondary school for the area. Others objections expressed concerns about increased traffic.

Revised plans for existing developments are often successful

On Glenageary Road Upper in Dún Laoghaire, Cosgrave Developments attracted no submissions when it sought permission for alternative design proposals for its plans for 214 apartments on the site, which is already home to 175 new houses.