Docklands Development Approved

Caltravas and convention at night

An Bord Pleanála has approved the Docklands Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) plan. The document, which was also adopted by Dublin City Council, acts as a blueprint for underdeveloped parts of the Docklands, detailing the types of buildings that can be constructed – such as residential or commercial – within the strategic zone.

The current strategic zone stretches from the North Lotts, including some parts of Grand Canal Basin, to Spencer Dock on the north side of the city, covering 22 hectares.

“The Docklands area is highly attractive to international investors, so the approval of the planning scheme should now lead to construction of new commercial developments,” says former Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn.

The plan calls for the allocation of some 2,600 residential units and almost 366,000 square metres of commercial floorspace, which would add an additional residential population of 5,800 and employment of almost 23,000 people, according to the plan.

Broadly, the plan outlines a vision for the Docklands as an area that will become world-class at cultivating a maritime environment, socially inclusive urban neighbourhoods, and become expert at the promotion of a green economy.

In a statement welcoming the adoption of the plan, the Council said it hopes the SDZ plan “meets the future needs of the city” by creating what it calls a “vibrant living urban quarter” capable of becoming a major player on the international business scene. The Council also reiterated that it wants the new SDZ plan to help support a “real economic recovery” with the hope that a boom within this area will filter throughout the city and the local communities.

“What it does is rezone many parts of the Docklands to ensure that sustainable long-term development can take place,” Fine Gael Cllr Kieran Binchy told NewsFour. “If you go down to the Docklands at the moment it’s a job half done, so we’re zoning it in such a way that it will be built for businesses and residents, because there’s a big housing crisis in Dublin.”

The housing crisis has become somewhat of a lurking problem for this new SDZ plan. During the consultation process with the local community, the allocation of housing wasn’t a pivotal issue. In the past few weeks, and particularly after the publication of a number of worrying stories and statistics relating to a housing crisis, there are calls for the plan to be re-written to address the ongoing issue.

“I think the housing crisis has become more acute than when this plan started,” said Sinn Féin Cllr Chris Andrews. “I think that given that there is that realisation (of a crisis in housing) it would be worthwhile revisiting the plan in terms of housing, because we’ll be looking at it through a different lens.”

The instigation of the new SDZ plan comes after the wind-up of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) in 2012 and the conclusion of the Docklands Masterplan, which saw the Docklands transformed. During the time of the DDDA, the governance and oversight for the project was solely in the hands of that external authority. In accordance with this new plan, however, Dublin City Council has the governing authority as the development agency.

“The good thing about it is that the rest of the Docklands redevelopment will be completed; that’s the good part,” said Betty Ashe, the External Liason Co-ordinator at St Andrews Resource Centre. “There is aspirational stuff written into it about education and jobs, but nowhere does it state where the money will come from.” In accordance with the framework, it’s up to private companies to actually start building.

Back in June, Nama invited companies to buy land in the vacant site at North Wall Quay next to the new HQ of the Central Bank in what they call a long leasehold interest. If the building work begins, the site has the potential to accommodate 500,000 square feet of office space and 160 new homes.

“Our main points are that we need to be guaranteed funding for education and training and that the housing is kept in the Docklands and the jobs are available to local people,” said Betty.

Many other locals have been similarly worried about the nature of the plans. Back in February, the chairman of the North Wall Community Association, Gerry Fay, warned that the plan would split his area into two. In May, he likened the plans to “Thatcherite policies” and many other locals see the plans as an attempt to erode the community.

Despite this criticism of the plan, it should be noted that Dublin City Council has made a serious effort to be inclusive of the local community during the consultation process. The Council held a number of conferences under the title A Community for All, hosted alongside the now-defunct DDDA, in May of last year. Similarly, Fine Gael Cllr Kieran Binchy and former Labour Cllr Maria Parodi amended the plan to be inclusive of Ringsend with the proposals for a new bridge in the area.

You can find more information about the conferences and the plan at

By Liam Cahill