DCC Notes

Above: Proposed outdoor swimming pool amenity illustration.
Source: Dublin Docklands/ Dublin City Council Preliminary Feasibility Report

Compiled by Dermot Carmody

Election of SEAC Chairperson

At the start of the meeting on July 13th of the South East Area Committee (SEAC), Cllr. Dermot Lacey (LAB) was re-elected to the chair. Anne Feeney (FG) was elected vice-chairperson.

Demolition of block of apartments at St Andrew’s Court

The committee heard a presentation from Ms. Elaine Johnson, DCC Executive Engineer with the City Architects Department, notifying of the intention to demolish Block 1 at the St Andrew’s Court site. The block is a 1970s senior citizen flat development of 14 units. The existing building does not meet current Building Regulation and Housing Standards. As well as the removal of the buildings, the work will include demolition of two associated pram sheds and works at the adjacent car park, paths, trees, plants, lighting poles etc., and the asphalt resurfacing and fencing of the area. There are no specific current construction proposals for the site beyond the aim to redevelop it in line with current standards, which will also provide greater housing density. A design team to work on the redevelopment is in the process of being appointed.

In response, Cllr. Mannix Flynn (Ind) welcomed the demolition of these “decrepit” buildings, saying that there were many more like them which ought to be meeting the same end. However, he expressed concerns that the proposed fenced asphalt area could be the focus of antisocial activities, including dumping. He suggested the area could instead be used as a playground, football pitch or community garden with raised beds while awaiting further redevelopment. Cllr. Tara Deacy (SD) wondered if the SEAC had the capacity to decide now that the site ought to be used as community gardens rather than left empty. Cllr. Lacey, however, suggested that in the context of discussions between the council and a hotel group about proposals to do a land swap that could potentially yield greater density of housing units in the area, it was likely that the site would not remain empty for long. Asking where residents from St Andrews would be relocated, Cllr. Calire Byrne (GP) named The O’Callaghan Hotel Group in connection with a proposed land swap deal. Concerns were raised by Cllr. Kevin Donoghue (Lab) about the cost of the demolition, the rehousing of existing tenants and the overall impact on housing units available in the South East area. Cllr. Pat Dunne said he was “uncomfortable” being asked to agree to the demolition without knowing what redevelopment plans would be and stressed the importance of using the site for public housing.

Cllr. Lacey suggested these points be put to the Manager and his answers included in a report which could be presented to the full council meeting when it considers the matter in its September meeting. Ms Johnson agreed that it was anticipated that there would be a relatively short time between demolition and redevelopment and said that therefore there was a reluctance to create a green area in the short term, which would then be taken away. In answer to questions put by Cllr. Claire Byrne, she said tenants had been rehoused through the area office, as would the two remaining tenants in Block 1 and did not have further information on the details of that. She could give no exact figure for the proposed housing density of any redevelopment, although she said the intention would be to provide greater density.

Councillors frustrated by lack of notice about COVID19 mobility measures

Cllr. Anne Feeney (FG) highlighted the difficulties being caused by lack of notification of councillors where changes to traffics and access for residents was being caused by COVID 19 mobility measures. She called for a proper CRM keeping councillors informed in advance of such changes rather than individual councillors having to spend a lot of time trying to find out what is happening. She characterised the current state of communications with councillors “not acceptable and unprofessional.” Cllr. Deirdre Conroy (FF) said it was really frustrating that changes were made to traffic without councillors being notified in advance. She pointed out that this resulted in angry emails from constituents to whom promises had been made that councillors would inform them of proposed changes to traffic. This could be remedied if councillors in a particular area affected by traffic changes were automatically informed when such decisions were taken. Agreeing with her colleagues, Cllr. Mary Freehill (Lab) said that DCC management and staff have a “responsibility to communicate with elected representatives.” She accused management of “sliding away” and deliberately diminishing the influence of elected representatives and called on leaders of all political groups in council to hold management to account in this respect.

Proposed Heated Outdoor Swimming Pool in Dublin City Centre

Dublin Dockland Administrative officer, Derek Kelly gave a presentation to the committee about a preliminary feasibility review of the potential to develop a heated outdoor swimming pool public amenity in Dublin City Centre. The report references similar facilities of this sort in other cities such as Helsinki, Berlin and Paris. The location options looked at for the development of such an amenity in Dublin include Grand Canal Dock, Spencer Dock, a site adjacent to Sean O’Casey Bridge and one adjacent to the 3Arena. The review concluded that the site adjacent to Sean O’Casey Bridge would be most suitable, primarily because of its proximity to the city centre. The funding of €15 million to build the pool and amenities would not come from the council. Interested commercial investors would be found. Cllr. Tara Deacy (SD) suggested that ownership of the facility should revert to the city after a 30-year lease and said any such development should be accessible to the community and sustainable.

Cllr. Flynn (Ind) and Cllr. James Geoghan (FG) were among those voicing suspicion that the idea for such a project originated not from the council but from an outside interest. Cllr. Goeghan said the city management should understand that such large-scale proposals were seen as a “two fingers” to communities like that in Crumlin and elsewhere, where existing facilities were under-funded and not able to open all the time. He felt that in the case of the White Water Rafting proposal the suggestion that the Dublin Fire Brigade would benefit from a training standpoint has turned out to be a “ruse” to curry favour for the project with the council. It later transpired that the Fire Brigade spent only €25,000 per annum on such training in alternative locations, a small fraction of the multi million euro development of the proposed White Water centre. Cllr. Paddy McCartan (FG) said the proposal should be looked at in the context of the current situation and COVID 19. He said leisure facilities were closing in Dublin because they could no longer get insurance and queried what would happen if an investor in a pool found themselves in that situation and the council was “left holding the baby”. He said the project should be shelved.

Committee Rejects Moorehead Report

Cllr. Deirdre Conway (FF) proposed the motion rejecting the Moorehead Report on remuneration for councillors, claiming that rather than increasing pay it would result in a net loss of income for councillors. She said the suggestion in the report that councilors work two and half days a week did not reflect the reality that elected representatives work seven days a week. Supporting the motion, Cllr. Claire Byrne (GP) said the report did not deal with the reality of modern councillors’ work, taking no account of time spent dealing with email and social media platforms. She said she did “not know what century [the report’s author] thinks we’re in.” The report was widely disparaged by councillors, including Cllr. Flynn (Ind) who said the report “seems to be on another planet, of another universe that bears no relation whatsoever to our reality.” Cllr. Lacey (Lab) described the report as “the most offensive and ill-informed document” he had ever read.