Residential space in Dublin city centre

 

Sir, – David McWilliams (“The rules of the property game have changed”, Analysis, October 17th) laments the lack of residential occupation in the centre of Dublin, and in particular the wastage of the upper floors of existing buildings. He suggests that economics can provide a solution and recommends a dereliction tax of 100 per cent of the value of the building, paid over five years. This, he says, will lead to upper floors being used.

Not so, unfortunately, because other concerns hamper a solution.

Historical buildings require changes to make them suitable for residential use.

The changes necessary can be opposed by the conservation officers who rightly wish to retain historical features of the buildings, for example narrow staircases that are hundreds of years old. These support the character of the building but are not suitable for modern living.

Concessions are needed, but often are not forthcoming.

In addition, the upgrading or occupation of these upper floors is further hampered by the need to comply with fire regulations which impose a major cost.

The extensive alterations required by fire regulations often conflict with conservation requirements.

The changes necessary to make older buildings usable are often opposed for different reasons by both the fire officers and conservation officers.

The planners in Dublin City Council have set up a section to assist people trying to use buildings in the city centre for residential use but can only watch helplessly as mutually contradictory, expensive fire safety and conservation requirements are pitted against each other and are difficult to resolve. The outcome is that it is difficult and time-consuming to obtain planning approval. Once approval has been granted, it costs too much to do up such buildings for residential use.

Yes, the upper floors are mostly empty, but activity in the city centre in recent years was driven by tourists and locals visiting from the suburbs. The pandemic has removed this activity, so the formerly jam-packed city centre is now a doughnut!

The pandemic is radically transforming the city. This is an existential crisis, and it is not temporary.

Dublin is hit hard because of a lack of people living in the centre. This situation needs to be responded to by an administration with vision and imagination. A proactive approach is needed from Dublin City Council and the relevant Ministers.

There is a need to identify explicitly what is hindering residential development in the city centre, recommend measures to alter these, and implement the measures proposed .

It would be tragic if this opportunity was missed by a passive administration. As the saying goes, never waste a good crisis. – Yours, etc,

TONY MANAHAN ,

Town Planning

Consultant ,

Dublin 2.