Finglas rezoning proposal in doubt due to opposition of Fianna Fáil councillors

Resistance to plan has prompted claims ‘hundreds’ of new homes could be blocked

‘The feeling is that maybe the rezoning is premature,’ says Tom Brabazon, left, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Donaghmede. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

‘The feeling is that maybe the rezoning is premature,’ says Tom Brabazon, left, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Donaghmede. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A rezoning proposal that could open the way for “hundreds” of new homes in Finglas hangs in the balance amid opposition to the plan among Fianna Fáil members of Dublin City Council.

Resistance to the plan in the party has led to local claims that new dwellings could be blocked at a time when Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien wants to intensify building after the coronavirus pandemic to tackle the shortage of homes.

Noeleen Reilly, an Independent councillor in Ballymun-Finglas, criticised the stance of Fianna Fáil councillors, saying there would be ad hoc development on the 106.5-acre site if the rezoning plan was not adopted.

“I think it’s really disappointing, especially as they have the housing ministry and the Minister is calling for local authorities to support housing all the time and yet, in this area, Fianna Fáil is opposing housing,” she said.

“I’m certainly supporting it because it’s a huge opportunity to support Finglas village, a huge opportunity to provide housing and facilities.”

Restricted

The council votes on Monday to adopt new zoning that would allow residential development on the site at Jamestown Road, St Margaret’s Road and McKee Avenue. The current zoning is restricted to business and job-creation activities.

The plan has been backed by Finglas Employer Group, a coalition of four companies that own land on the site, which has said it could provide hundreds of new dwellings. However, some local representatives believe it could accommodate thousands of homes.

The employer group sent a text message on Sunday to all 63 members of the city council urging them to support the rezoning, saying it will promote “critical housing” and business growth. “This is now critical and we ask for your vital support.”

The proposal requires a two-thirds majority of council, meaning 42 votes are needed. Fianna Fáil has 11 council seats and its stance is perceived to be pivotal, even though other parties support the plan. There is some opposition to the rezoning within the Social Democrats, which has five seats, and there is no clarity over the stance of the Greens, which has 10.

Briege Mac Oscar, one of two Fianna Fáil councillors in the Ballymun-Finglas electoral area, said she was against a change to the 2016-2022 county development plan before the adoption of a 2022-2028 development plan. “I will be voting against it myself personally because I’ve several concerns about it,” she said.

“I think it’s crazy that we would do that when, in a few months’ time, we’re about to do the [new] development plan for the city as a whole… I think it’s proper that a site this size would be considered in that context.”

Keith Connolly, the other Fianna Fáil councillor in the area, said he will vote against the rezoning but reckoned “most” of his party colleagues would support it as the party had no whip in the council. “I not opposed to housing. I want to see housing developed but I just don’t see what the rush is. This is a massive site in a great location but you can’t reverse bad planning,” he said.

Transport study

“I have a number of concerns with this being rushed through at the moment. There’s a statement from Irish Water that says drainage is at maximum capacity in the area at the moment. There’s no transport study done.”

Tom Brabazon, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Donaghmede, has also opposed the proposal. “The feeling is that maybe the rezoning is premature,” he said. “You have to weigh up each case as it comes before you. Dublin city is not going to be able to solve the housing crisis on its own.”

Social Democrat councillor Mary Callaghan of Ballymun-Finglas, who is Deputy Lord Mayor of the council, declined to say how she will vote. “I wouldn’t be prepared to make a statement on that at the moment. We’re still looking at various different details and getting clarification.”

Green councillor Caroline Conroy, who represents the area, declined to set out her preference before a party meeting on Sunday night. “There’s a lot of things we have to weigh up on what will be the most positive outcome for the area.”