Dublin needs more hotels, says Fáilte Ireland, after vote to curb

City planner says limiting hotels under development plan would leave council open to legal action

Dublin is facing a shortfall of more than 1,000 hotel rooms Fáilte Ireland has said, despite calls by Dublin city councillors for a curb on hotel construction in the city.

Councillors on Monday night voted to initiate a change to the city development plan to limit hotels, and review the plan to propose other changes which could be made to “urgently protect and promote nightlife and creative culture in Dublin”.

Councillors also agreed that any council land which was not suitable for social housing would be assessed for its potential for cultural use as an alternative to sale.

While councillors of all parties spoke in favour of the motion, city planner John O’Hara said limiting hotels under the city development plan would leave the council open to legal action. “Any talk of a ban or curtailment without evidence runs the risk of legal challenge,” he said.

Head of Planning Richard Shakespeare said it was a management function to initiate a change to the development plan and the council's management did not intend to do so. The council passed the motion regardless.

A Fáilte Ireland spokeswoman said, while hotel numbers were growing, demand was outstripping supply.

“After almost a decade of inactivity, a strong pipeline of new hotel accommodation stock is expected to improve tourism capacity pressures in Dublin by 2020. However, this activity is still being outpaced by growing demand and an expected shortfall of at least 1,100 rooms.”

This lack of supply in the capital affected the rest of the country, she said.

“Dublin is where most visitors choose to spend part of their stay in the city. Over 85 per cent of visitors access Ireland through Dublin. Therefore, if visitors cannot access Dublin, it is highly likely they may not visit the country at all.”

Green Party councillor Patrick Costello said the proposal to limit hotels was an attempt to "restore balance" to the city development plan.

“If all we are building in the city is hotels and aparthotels that is not serving the city or valuing creativity in the city. That is the reason people come here, they don’t come for hotels.”

The perceived shortage of hotels in the city, could be because they are being inappropriately used, he said.

“If the occupancy rates are so high, it has to be asked how many of these rooms are being booked by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive? How many are booked out by people working in Dublin who are finding it cheaper to stay in a hotel than to rent? We need to question what outside factors are distorting these figures.”

Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan points to several hotels in the Dublin 8 area which have replaced cultural uses such as a 242-room aparthotel replacing the Tivoli Theatre on Francis Street and the 202-room Aloft hotel replacing artists studios on Mill Street.

The city had a greater need for housing than hotels she said.

“It’s a question of land use and our priorities. Tourism numbers have shot up so while Fáilte Ireland might be right, [in relation to the lack of hotel rooms ]that doesn’t mean that it’s the best land use for a mixed city.”

Monday's council meeting was called following the planned closure of the Bernard Shaw pub and venue in Portobello, and the decision by councillors to sell council owned land near the venue to a developer.

Last week it emerged that the Bernard Shaw will reopen on the northside of the city in the Porterhouse Whitworth pub close to Cross Guns Bridge on the border between Glasnevin and Phibsborough.

The meeting came just days after another large scale hotel was granted permission in the city, which will involve large scale demolition.

Keily family company Greybirch has secured permission for an eight-storey 116-bedroom hotel on at block at George's Quay opposite Liberty Hall and beside Mulligan's pub on Poolbeg Street.

Buildings on the quays, Poolbeg Street and on Tara Street will be demolished to make way for the development, including the Tara Building, which opened in recent years as a co-working premises with its exterior painted by street artist Maser.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times