Plans to sell rezoned Dublin jam factory site for €25m leave sour taste

Councillors say they were ‘fooled’ into rezoning with ‘sugared’ promises of housing

Last year An Bord Pleanála approved an increase in the number of apartments on the former Chivers jam factory site to 550. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Last year An Bord Pleanála approved an increase in the number of apartments on the former Chivers jam factory site to 550. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Plans to sell the former Chivers jam factory in north Dublin for €25 million have “left a very sour taste” in the mouths of Dublin city councillors who said they felt “fooled” into rezoning the land for housing.

Councillors are disputing the validity of the zoning saying “sugared” promises of homes had encouraged them to rezone the land, leading to a 10-fold increase in its value.

In 2017, the site’s owner, Andrew Gillick, asked councillors to rezone the old jam factory in Coolock for housing. He said he and his brother Maurice intended to build about 350 apartments up to five storeys in height. The factory site, which had been vacant for almost 20 years, had been valued at €2.55 million the previous year .

Councillors approved the rezoning in 2018. Mr Gillick’s company Platinum Land subsequently secured planning permission for 471 apartments up to nine storeys tall. Last year An Bord Pleanála approved an increase in the number of apartments to 550. Platinum Land has recently put the site on the market for €25 million.

Independent councillor John Lyons said the site should be dezoned. “We made a zoning decision based on the information supplied to us by the owners of that site which it turns out was untrue,” he said. “They were very clear and explicit, they were going to develop that site to provide, as they said, affordable housing for normal and needy people… and they have completely reneged on that.”

‘Serious implications’

Sinn Féin councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha said there were “serious implications” for any future rezonings. “This was presented to us in a very sugared way as a great social enterprise and now we see the reality, that the intention it seems all along was to flip the site.”

His party colleague Larry O’Toole said the council had been “fooled” into a rezoning decision. “These two geezers breezed in here with nothing in their minds but to line their pockets.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Tom Brabazon said the episode had “left a very sour taste in our mouths”.

Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland said Mr Gillick recently told her he did not have the €150 million required to build the project and no finance was available in Ireland.

When contacted by The Irish Times, Mr Gillick said he “did not mislead anyone” and the project represented “a great result all round”.

“We are not builders, we are property developers, and we have given a tremendous amount to the city and community,” he said. “We did a phenomenal job and achieved a great planning permission.”