Longfield’s Hotel to become homeless hostel after ruling
Council hopes to complete €4m conversion of Fitzwilliam Street buildings by end of 2017
A High Court ruling has given Dublin City Council the green light to convert Longfield’s Hotel into a homeless hostel.
The council spent almost €7 million in 2007 buying the two adjoining buildings a stone’s throw from Merrion Square, and has spent another €1 million on security for the empty buildings.
The local authority had been willing to pay a premium price for the Dublin 2 property because it had come under criticism for concentrating hostels in the north inner city and the Liberties.
Soon after its purchase from Mr McFeely, however, the purse strings tightened and the council was not able to pay the costs of converting the building into a hostel.
It was not until March 2014 that the council decided it had the resources to begin redevelopment in a plan that would have Dublin Simon Community run the hostel as a “supported temporary accommodation”.
Each of the 30 residents would be able to stay for up to six months, though the new Longfield’s hostel would not have increased hostel beds in the city as Simon Community planned to close an outdated hostel on Harcourt Street.
The new shelter, the council then proposed, would provide accommodation for people with mental health issues, substance abuse, people fleeing domestic violence, ex-offenders or people leaving care.
The planning system requires a local authority to make such proposals available for public consultation. Once it did so, the council received a cold response. Just one of 63 submissions was “fully supportive”.
Several submissions raised concerns about the safety of pedestrians and property owners. The “temptations” close by, including a “gambling casino”, public houses, nightclubs and shops selling alcohol, were highlighted.
Others said the development would be detrimental to the conservation of the south Georgian heart of the city and that it would negatively affect tourism.
In February 2015, the plans were approved by councillors but two months later Fitzwilliam Street resident Kenny Byrnes took a High Court challenge to the council’s decision that was ultimately decided in favour of the council this week.
However, the council will spend €4 million converting the buildings. Its deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny said it hopes to have the hostel in place by the end of the year.
“We’re delighted by the decision and we will be going full steam ahead with the work. There is a need for this service in this part of the city, and it’s important that all parts of the city take their fair share of homeless services.”
It is a week where the council could do with good news, as another High Court challenge had been taken over the use of Carman’s Hall, on Francis Street, as a homeless hostel.