State agencies seek end of high-rise restrictions

HSE, Nama and others urge Dublin City Council to remove construction limits

State agencies, including the National Transport Authority, the HSE and Nama, have urged Dublin City Council to remove restrictions on the construction of high-rise buildings in the city.

The agencies have made separate submissions to the council ahead of the drafting of the new Dublin City Development Plan. It will come into force next year and will govern all construction in the city for the following five years.

Submissions from some agencies and construction industry bodies said the restrictions in the current development plan, which has been in place since 2011, held back development in the city. Others argued the economic recovery could only be properly exploited if there was greater flexibility in relation to height.

The question of whether high-rise buildings should be permitted in the city has long been a contentious one.

The current plan only permits buildings of more than 50m, or above 16 storeys of apartments and 12 storeys of offices, at four locations in the city: the docklands, George’s Quay and the Connolly and Heuston station areas.

Curbs on height

Office buildings must be fewer than seven storeys and apartment blocks fewer than six storeys in most of the inner city. Curbs on height are more acute in the “outer city” or suburbs, where residential and office buildings in most areas would not be permitted above four storeys. Buildings located at major rail stations or “hubs” would be permitted up to six storeys.

Nine areas were identified as having potential for mid-rise buildings of up to 50m tall, but only if a local area plan was devised which permitted higher buildings at the particular location.

Then city manager John Tierney had warned councillors against caps on heights because of "severe repercussions for the city's competitiveness". However, the plan covered a period where there was little construction activity.

In its submission on the new plan, the HSE said current height restrictions had had a "negative impact on the delivery of hospital facilities in Dublin city". In 2012 An Bord Pleanála refused permission for a national children's hospital at the Mater hospital, largely because of the effect the height of the 74m building would have on the city skyline.

The National Transport Authority’s submission cautions against height restrictions on “brownfield sites” in the city centre. Brownfield sites are vacant or underused lands, of which there are more than 61 hectares in the city centre zoned for commercial or residential development.

Undeveloped land

The authority said it would be particularly opposed to curbing height on undeveloped land in the docklands and the area around Heuston station.

Submissions from Nama and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland also sought flexibility regarding height.

City councillors will this week consider the submissions at their first development plan meeting. Several councillors have submitted motions cautioning against increased height.

In his report to councillors council chief executive Owen Keegan said the current plan "acknowledges the intrinsic quality of Dublin as a low-rise city". He said it was likely that emerging signs of economic recovery would result in "increased development activity including pressure for higher buildings".

“In this context, the development plan review will consider the operation of current height policy and standards in order to address any anomalies and promote appropriate height in highly accessible areas of the city while safeguarding amenities and the cityscape.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times