A new fast-track planning scheme for Dublin’s Docklands has been approved by city councillors.
Councillors last night ratified plans for the creation of a strategic development zone (SDZ) in the Docklands which would give council planners the power to make decisions that could not be appealed to An Bord Pleanála,
The scheme is the first major planning initiative for the area since the Government decision last year to wind up the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and transfer its powers to the council.
The Government has sanctioned the designation of 66 hectares of riverside lands, previously under the control of the authority, for the new planning zone.
The scheme will come into force in four weeks' time unless it is appealed to An Bord Pleanála. If no appeal is lodged, or if there is an appeal and the scheme is ultimately approved by An Bord Pleanála, all future applications made for this part of the Docklands must be granted permission if they are consistent with the scheme and cannot be appealed to the planning board.
Some key developments, previously approved by the authority, have been eliminated from the council's plans for the new zone.
Skyscrapers such as the 130m U2 Tower and the Point Village Watchtower at 100m have “very little prospect” of ever being built and would not be viable if permitted, the council said.
The council has received several public submissions that it has been too restrictive in relation to height, and that the scheme “lacks ambition”.
However, while it is shunning some of the more “extreme proposals” of the past, it said, it is not giving up on the prospect of tall buildings for the area.
Buildings of 40-60m in height could still be permitted in key “landmark” locations within the area.
Crucially, the council says, buildings more than two storeys under the identified height will not be considered acceptable to safeguard against “unsustainable underdevelopment in a recession”.
While the main points of interest in the plan are likely to be the permissible heights and the commercial potential of the zone, the scheme also contains proposals to develop the residential, retail, culture, leisure and tourism potential of the area.
The planning scheme will govern the Grand Canal Dock and North Lotts area, the part of the Docklands closest to the city centre, and the area seen as the most viable in terms of economic development and the provision of housing.
The remaining former authority-controlled lands, including the controversial Glass Bottle site, have not been included in the zone. Docklands sites not included in the new zone will be assessed for their potential for inclusion in separate planning schemes, the council has said.
The zone includes what the council describes as “strategic assets” such as the Convention Centre at Spencer Dock, the O2 at the Point Village and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre at Grand Canal Dock.
Within the 66 hectares, about 22 hectares are available for development, which the council says represents significant potential for major economic and community expansion and regeneration.