The rezoning of industrial brownfield sites in Dublin City may not produce an immediate flush of affordable homes or buy-to-let, high-rise apartments. What it will do, however, is reward landowners whose properties will multiply in value when they are zoned as residential. No guarantees will exist concerning future site development because planning conditions cannot be imposed at the zoning stage. Official caution and a revised legal approach may be required.
Where the rezoning of land may treble or quadruple its initial value, there should be some control over its eventual use
Intensive lobbying has been conducted at national and local level in favour of rezoning these run-down, city-based industrial estates. A great deal of money is at stake for the owners. New housing projects for these sites tend to generate emotional and political support. But a case can also be made for renovating fading industrial estates so that people may find work locally. Only six per cent of the land in Dublin is zoned industrial and, because it is a limited resource, it should be carefully managed.
Using financial carrots to encourage the optimum use of existing resources is a well-established practice. On occasion, however, a stick is also required to ensure good behaviour. In this instance, where the rezoning of land may treble or quadruple its initial value, there should be some control over its eventual use to guard against profiteering and to protect the public interest.
Dublin City councillors have rezoned the old Chivers factory site at Coolock on the understanding that hundreds of affordable homes will be built there. Now, the council's head of housing, deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny, has identified three industrial estates with potential for high-rise developments. The city will run out of zoned residential land in four years, he said, and industrial estates – where owners were unwilling to sell because of low industrial values – should be considered as housing land.
Throwing money at problems rarely makes them go away. If industrial estate owners and developers are to be rewarded in this way, what special consideration should be given to new homeowners and tenants?