Major concerns over IGB site plans

Above: The Glass Bottle site: stormy times ahead?

Above: The Glass Bottle site: stormy times ahead?

Local councillors invited members of the Ringsend Glass Bottle Site Housing Action Group to attend the local area committee meeting of Dublin City Council (DCC) on September 12th.

The meeting heard a report from DCC Regional Planning Guidelines Officer, Deirdre Scully, regarding the pre-draft planning stage of the Poolbeg Strategic Development Zone (SDZ), a pre-planning initiative intended to engage with local residents and other local stakeholders so as to give them some level of input into the development of the area.

The Poolbeg site, which includes the Irish Glass Bottle factory, has been designated an SDZ in a move that critics of the project see as an invitation to allow developers undue access to the land as the SDZ zoning provides for the bypassing of normal planning regulations, including the right for locals to object and seek to block development plans.

The Glass Bottle Site Housing Action Group are a group of concerned locals who are campaigning for the Glass Bottle factory portion of the SDZ to be used to provide 100% social and affordable housing for local residents, as opposed to the much lower percentage of such provision as supported by other parties.

Scully presented to the meeting on a number of pre-planning concerns that had been raised regarding the development of the site, including environmental concerns, the extensive underground infrastructure of pipes and cables there, transport requirements that would arise in the area, and concerns regarding the need for local employment, social and community needs, and social cohesion.

But it was the issue of plans for the provision of social and affordable housing on the site that drew most comment from councillors at the DCC area meeting.

At the meeting Cllr Frank Kennedy (Fianna Fáil) said that it was “critically important” that DCC get the development right, and asked whether there was room on the Irish Glass Bottle (IBS) site for 3,000 housing units.

Scully responded by pointing out that 3,000 units was not a number suggested by DCC planning and that their working number was closer to 2,500 housing units.

Fine Gael councillors, Kieran Binchy and Paddy McCartan, agreed in that they are not in favour of 100% provision of social and affordable housing on the site, but Cllr Binchy considered that there is a need for more substantial social housing provision, with DCC acquiring land to provide such provision if needs be, as land on the site is currently not owned by DCC.

Green Party councillor, Claire Byrne, said she supported providing more social housing on the site while independent councillor, Sonya Stapleton, also raised the question of DCC acquiring land to provide social housing.

Cllr McCartan lauded the recent DCC agreement on housing provision in O’Devaney Gardens where 30% social housing for the site was agreed upon. Residents and campaigners had been concerned that there would be no social housing provided in that development plan.

Cllr Chris Andrews, Sinn Féin, enquired about the height of the housing units to be built and asked if a social contract could be created within the SDZ to ensure local employment. In response,
Scully indicated that there are many planning issues to consider before arriving at an estimated height of the housing developments, and said that it is largely an issue of how much land DCC will “have to play with,” but she suggested that the housing developments would have to be of height to meet the 2,500 housing units figure. She explained that the provision of a social contract ensuring employment was a matter for the private owners of the site, but hoped that work in engaging the local community through community forums would develop and expand.

Cllr Dermot Lacey, Labour, cautiously welcomed the SDZ development stating that it is “the most exciting possibility that this area has seen in twenty or thirty years.” He considered that there is “huge potential to get it right, but also, sadly, huge potential to get it wrong,” and cautioned that there was a need to provide employment and community facilities in the area, not just housing. Cllr Lacey stated that neither he nor locals would accept the 10% social housing figure currently provided for in the SDZ guidelines.

Independent councillor, Mannix Flynn, stated that he entirely supports residents in their demand for extensive provision of social and affordable housing and cautioned that promises of employment and housing had been broken in dockland developments before. He stated that the template of locals surrendering land for development in their area for 30% social housing is, in his view, “not really fair.” He stated that he is in favour of empowering locals and giving ownership of the development process to docklands residents via setting up statutory committees for the docklands areas. Calling for honesty in the development consultations with residents, he warned of “duping” citizens with a “pseudo-participatory process” in advance of development.

Citing the 30% agreement reached by Housing Minister, Simon Coveney, in the O’Devaney Gardens development as a possible precedent for the Poolbeg SDZ, a spokesperson for the Ringsend Glass Bottle Site Housing Action Group responded to comments made at the DCC meeting saying: “Minister Coveney’s proposals would mean that 70% of the IGB site would be handed over for private development. That would mean even more high priced apartment developments, and following the market trend in Ringsend these would be bought up by vulture funds and landlords. [Our] campaign will continue to demand 100% social-affordable council housing.”

Plans for the development of Poolbeg and the IGB SDZ site will be put on public display before Christmas and a final decision on housing provisions should be made before February 2017.

By Harry Bradley