OPW targeted for criticism over vacant sites

Ill-fated decentralisation programme did OPW image no favours with more than €40 million spent on sites around the State which were never used

Derelict site on Cork Street near junction with Ormond Street.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien /The Irish Times

Derelict site on Cork Street near junction with Ormond Street. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien /The Irish Times

 


The Office of Public Works (OPW), the organisation with responsibility for the management of State lands, is a prime target for criticism when it comes to sitting on sites with no productive use.

The ill-fated decentralisation programme did its image no favours in this regard, with more than €40 million spent on sites around the State which were never used.

However, the organisation has also been fingered for leaving lands in Dublin unused for long periods.

The OPW says it owns only four vacant sites in the city. Perhaps the reason it is so often cited as a land-hoarder is that some of these plots are very large and have been vacant for a very long time.

‘Strategic purposes’
In 1999 it bought an acre on Church Street for £4 million with the intention of building an office block. Some 14 years on, nothing has been built.

The triangular site, boarded by the Luas line and Hammond Lane, is one of the most unsightly in the city. When asked what its plans were for this site the OPW said it was being “retained for strategic purposes”.

Its largest vacant site in the city is an area of almost 4.7 acres on Military Road, opposite Heuston Station.

In 2003 Tom Parlon, then a minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, announced ambitious plans for a residential and office development on the site including a 32-storey apartment block. The tower and the rest of the scheme were never built.

Will it ever be? When asked, the OPW said the site still had a live planning permission and was “being retained for strategic purposes”.

In 2007 the OPW went out to tender for a new Garda Dublin headquarters on Bride Street, backing on to its oldest Dublin Garda station at Kevin Street. Gardaí remain at their old divisional headquarters in Harcourt Street and the Bride Street site is still boarded up.

In 2007 the OPW demolished part of a building on Leeson Lane to make the site, which included a former nurses’ home for St Stephen’s Hospital, more attractive to developers. Later that year Bennett Developments was understood to have agreed to pay in the region of €30 million for the home and vacant site.

The site is still owned by the OPW, but it hasn’t given up hope of development and said: “This site will be part of the proposed redevelopment of the former Nurses’ Home in Leeson Lane.”

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