Prospects of a Hollywood-style film studio on Dublin's Poolbeg peninsula are looking extremely remote after a Dublin City Council study found it would take up 60 per cent of the land designated for housing.
Windmill Lane Studios founder James Morris and film producer Alan Moloney want to develop an €80 million studio complex on the former Irish Glass Bottle site at Ringsend on the peninsula at the city's east end.
U2 singer Bono has advocated for the project and lobbied former minister for the environment Alan Kelly to support the studio.
However, the council’s senior planners said the studio could not be accommodated without dramatically reducing the amount of new housing in the area or building apartment blocks to the height of Liberty Hall – twice the height of what has been proposed for Poolbeg.
The Government last May gave approval to the council to create a new fast-track planning scheme on 84 acres of land at Poolbeg.
The lands in the Poolbeg Strategic Development Zone were to be developed primarily to increase the stock of housing in the city and ease the housing crisis by allowing the council to approve developments that could not be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Parts of the zone would be retained for Dublin port use, and some office, retail, and other commercial development would also be permitted, with about 5 per cent of the site retained for “cultural” use.
The promoters of the studio project recently met the council’s senior planning officials, who are drafting the new strategic development zone plan, to seek that land would be set aside for their venture on the former glass bottle factory site.
“What was proposed at the meeting that I attended is that eight hectares of area be used.
“Eight hectares is 20 acres and that is 60 per cent of the area that was set aside for residential,” city planner John O’Hara said.
There had at the outset been a “grand ambition” for 3,000 homes at Poolbeg Mr O’Hara added.
However, a more in-depth analysis of the land available – which is constrained by the surrounding industry that in addition to the port activities includes the Ringsend sewage works and the incinerator currently under construction – showed 2,000-2,500 homes was “more realistic” he said.
At the higher figure, if the studio plan went ahead, no more than 1,000 homes could be built at the planned height of up to 28m, or nine storeys.
“If you reduce the number of residential units you are down to about a 1,000 units, roughly. Or you can go back up to 2,000 units and they are 15-16 storeys in height.” This, he said, would be a “massive trade-off”.
The studio promoters have said their proposal could create 2,800 jobs directly, along with 2,800 indirect jobs.
Mr O’Hara conceded there was potential for some 70 different studio-related trades, but he said that had to be “squared off” against the loss of homes.
The council would, however, be open to considering a studio head office in the area, which could support large “hanger-style” studios elsewhere in greater Dublin he said.