Dún Laoghaire rezoning row won’t halt march of mass housing schemes

Thousands of homes in the works already contravene county development plan

The Goat  pub in Goatstown, owned by Charlie Chawke.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The Goat pub in Goatstown, owned by Charlie Chawke. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Communities across the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area of Dublin have seen their suburbs expand to what must feel like bursting point with new housing schemes in recent years.

A warning from the Planning Regulator that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is preparing to rezone excessive amounts of land for housing in its new county development plan might compound their alarm; the fact that someone is blowing the whistle might come as a relief.

However, the immediate threat of over-development across the suburbs in the southeast of the capital is not coming from the county development plan, but from large-scale schemes which contravene that plan, but which in most cases are granted permission.

Thousands of homes, mostly apartments, have been approved or are currently going through the planning process in the area’s suburbs, including Dundrum, Sandyford, Goatstown and Carrickmines. Most contravene the council’s development plan in terms of height and density.

Since 2017 under the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process, applications for more than 100 homes, or blocks of 200 student bed spaces, are made directly to An Bord Pleanála, bypassing the local authority decision phase.

The board can grant permission for these schemes even when they don’t comply with the height, density or other provisions set down in a local authority development plan.

‘Serious concerns’

The board is currently assessing a plan for 299 apartments and a 22-bedroom hotel at the Goat Grill pub in Goatstown. The proposal, by publican Charlie Chawke, has been the subject of large numbers of objections, with the council saying it has “serious concerns” over the height and massing of the scheme.

In recent days the board approved a 482-apartment development at Golf Lane in Carrickmines which included a 22-storey tower, again despite a recommendation from council planners that permission be refused. The council had previously refused permission for 109 apartments on one-third of the site on the grounds this density would be “excessive for this outer suburban site”.

Other schemes granted permission by An Bord Pleanála are being challenged in the High Court by way of judicial review, including plans for a six-storey block of 239 student bed spaces at the Vector Motors site at Goatstown Road. The board granted planning for the complex after both the council and the board’s own inspector recommended refusal.

The inspector expressed concerns over the integration of the project in the context of the suburban road, and that the proposal would not find the appropriate balance between increased density and existing residential densities.

Another judicial review is underway against the board’s decision to grant 446 apartments and associated works at Marmalade Lane at the site of the Gort Muire Carmelite Centre near Dundrum Town Centre, again the contravention of the development plan in relation to height and density has been cited by the residents’ group taking the case.

Other large-scale developments will be determined by the board in the coming months, including plans for a 698-bed student accommodation scheme across eight blocks at Our Lady’s Grove also on Goatstown Road.

The programme for government committed to scrapping the SHD process at the end of this year, although this has now been extended to February 2022 due to planning delays caused by Covid-19 . However, for many local communities the horse has already bolted and will be far down the track before the 2022 development plan comes into force.

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