Owner denies ‘flipping’ Chivers jam factory site in north Dublin

Councillors say they felt ‘fooled’ into rezoning Coolock location for housing

A computer-generated image of ‘The Jam Factory’ apartment scheme in Coolock, Dublin 17

A computer-generated image of ‘The Jam Factory’ apartment scheme in Coolock, Dublin 17

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The owner of the old Chivers factory in north Dublin has denied he is “flipping” the site and said some Dublin city councillors are “obsessed” with his company making a profit.

Councillors have said they felt “fooled” into rezoning the Coolock site for housing after Andrew Gillick’s company Platinum Land put it on the market for €25 million, about 10 times its value, before rezoning.

The company had at all times acted “honourably and with integrity” Mr Gillick said, and the build-to-rent development of 550 apartments could provide much needed homes, with an agreement to lease 30 per cent to the council for social housing. “There is not another scheme I know of that gives so much back to society.”

Councillors rezoned the site in 2018 after Mr Gillick outlined plans for 350 apartments up to five storeys tall. Earlier this year he secured planning permission for 550 apartments in blocks up to nine storeys, and has recently put the site on the market.

Councillors this week said they felt misled into rezoning the site, which was being “flipped” for maximum profits. Mr Gillick rejects this characterisation.

“Flipping a site is trading it on without having done anything to it, not the case here,” he said. Considerable money, work and skill went into securing rezoning and planning permission he said.

“Some councillors seem to be obsessed we are potentially making a profit. Business always makes a profit or it fails. Councillors also seem to totally underestimate the complexity/costs and timings of designing and getting planning for a scheme.”

Developer

Mr Gillick said he was a property developer, not a builder. “Property developers and builders are two very different businesses and some people fail to see that,” he said. “We have succeeded in completing many steps to put this development on its way to completion and doing our part to help in solving the housing crisis.

“Now is the time for a build-to-rent fund and a large builder to complete the final stage,” he said. “If a few people in Ireland want to chase out foreign investment and funding, the supply of housing will grind to a halt. There simply isn’t the domestic funding that is required.”

He had invested in the Coolock site, which had been derelict for almost 20 years, at a time when the country was still in recession. “We recognised the potential of the site as part of the solution to the housing crisis which was gathering pace at the time,” he said. “A focus should be not on how much money a property business would, could, should make, but encouraging zoning, planning, building, skills shortages, funding and an environment where housing can be delivered to house people that need it.”

The scheme would provide homes for “the neediest in society” he said. “We have agreed to lease 30 per cent of the development to Dublin City Council for social housing on a 25-year lease and will do more if the demand is there.”

A spokesman for the council said it “has not been advised by the owner that the site is for sale”.

The council “indicated interest in an enhanced long-term lease agreement for 30 per cent of the entire scheme”. This process was ongoing and any new owner would have to “engage directly with [the council] in advancing a lease for 30 per cent of the units”.