Construction of more than 1,000 apartments at O’Devaney Gardens set to go ahead

Earlier ruling change could have blocked developer from selling half of apartments to investors

The construction of more than 1,000 apartments at O’Devaney Gardens is set to go ahead after Dublin City Councillors were told they could not rescind the agreement with developer Bartra.

Sinn Féin councillors had called for the council to reject the deal after An Bord Pleanála in March changed an earlier ruling which could have blocked Bartra from selling half the apartments to institutional investors.

However, the council's law agent Yvonne Kelly said the council was "contractually bound to a legally binding agreement" with Bartra and it was "not possible to get out of that agreement".

The board last September granted permission for the 1,047 homes in blocks up to 14 storeys tall at the former council flat complex near the Phoenix Park, with a condition which restricted potential sales to "individual purchasers".

While 30 per cent of the O’Devaney Gardens homes have been be reserved for social housing and 20 per cent for affordable purchase, the remaining 50 per cent were available to Bartra to sell privately.

Bartra argued the viability of the project would be affected by the condition which meant corporate entities could not buy the properties. The company said it asked the board to correct what it claimed was an error in the planning permission but when this did not occur it initiated judicial review proceedings against the board’s decision.

The board in March amended its permission to “clarify and confirm” that the condition only applied to houses and duplex units not apartments in the development.

‘Absolutely devastated’

Almost all of the new homes at O’Devaney Gardens will be apartments, with just 43 houses and duplexes. However, all these houses and duplexes are already earmarked for use for social or affordable housing and will not be offered to the private market.

The council’s head of housing Coilín O’Reilly on Wednesday told councillors he was continuing negotiations with Bartra and an approved housing body to secure an additional 30 per cent of the 1,047 homes for a cost-rental scheme, but he said ultimately the sale of these homes was “a matter for the developer”.

Independent councillor Cieran Perry said the council could legally rescind the deal because Bartra had not met deadlines to begin construction.

Sinn Féin councillor Janice Boylan also said this was a contract breach which was "almost like the universe is giving us an opportunity to pull this plan". The community was "absolutely devastated" by the Bartra deal, she said.

Social Democrats and most Independent councillors also spoke against the Bartra scheme, but Fine Fáil, Green Party, Fine Gael and Labour councillors said they wanted to see construction commencing on the site.

A Fianna Fail motion that councillors “oppose the sale of any homes in O’Devaney Gardens to ‘cuckoo funds’ “, and “call on Dublin City Council executives to do everything within their power to ensure construction commences without delay to deliver a minimum 30 per cent social housing, 20 per cent affordable homes to purchase, 30 per cent affordable cost rental” was passed by 32 to 18 votes.