Councillors call increase in student housing scheme ‘excessive’

More student beds and build-to-rent apartments added to Dublin 7 scheme

Plans to increase the amount of student accommodation and add build-to-rent apartments to a proposed development beside the Grangegorman Technological University Dublin (TUD) campus have been criticised by councillors as "excessive" and "opportunistic".

The owners of the Park Shopping Centre on Prussia Street, adjoining the new TUD campus, are seeking to add more than 40 student accommodation spaces and a new build-to-rent element to an eight-storey scheme close to Hanlon’s Corner in Dublin 7.

Planning permission was granted in 2017 by Dublin City Council for the demolition of the 1980s two-storey shopping centre, anchored by Tesco, and its replacement with a new Tesco store and 541 student beds, along with restaurants, retail units and a medical clinic in blocks of up to six storeys.

The application was made to the council shortly before the introduction of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system which allows applications for schemes of more than 100 homes, or blocks of 200 student bed spaces, be made directly to An Bord Pleanála, bypassing the local authority decision phase.

The Park Shopping Centre Limited has submitted a fresh application to the board for an additional two storeys to accommodate 584 student spaces and a new element of 29 build-to-rent apartments.

Council planner Klara Crowley on Wednesday told councillors while “the constituent elements of the SHD proposal are largely similar to the permitted development, this application seeks to increase the density and scale of the permitted development on the site” and was also seeking “additional height”.

Independent councillor Cieran Perry said the new scheme was excessively dense.

“The first thing I see here is an absolute mass of concrete. The street scape appears to be dark. I find it intrusive and I find there is excessive density.”

The application highlighted one of the problems with the SHD system, where existing applications were abandoned in the hope of gaining a larger development on sites, he said.

“We already had a planning application that was quite dense; what we have now is an obvious attempt to completely maximise profit on the site.”

Local residents

Residents in two-storey houses in nearby St Joseph’s Court would be particularly impacted by the extra density, he said.

“It’s actually frightening. I really feel bad for people facing that monstrosity. That, for me, is completely unacceptable.”

Independent councillor Christy Burke noted there were no "family units" planned. "This indicates once again the motive is profit." He said he had no problem with student accommodation per se, "people have to live, but the concentrated effort on student accommodation in the area is heading in the wrong direction".

Labour's Joe Costello said the addition of build-to-rent to the student scheme would result in a transient population. He added that the homes in St Joseph's Court would be "absolutely totally dwarfed by this development". Fine Gael's Ray McAdam also said he was concerned these homes would be in "perpetual darkness".

Planning consultant for the developer Simon Clear said the existing permission had been reviewed in line with recent Government policies and “a more integrated mixed-use redevelopment is proposed”. The new scheme would “rehabilitate, regenerate and enhance the district centre that serves an inner city community in a location subject to significant change”, he said.