Monday, 30 June 2008

Minister Gormley presents annual Irish Architecture Awards

“The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present” - said John Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, at the annual RIAI Irish Architecture Awards at the CHQ, IFSC, Dublin Docklands.

“In the surroundings of the beautifully restored CHQ, it is easy to see how the past and the present can live easily together if we give enough attention to conservation and clever design” - the Minister added.

“Achieving the ambitious targets for energy efficiency in all our buildings will present challenges to the construction industry. The signs are most encouraging that industry - more and more - accepts the commercial benefits of moving with us on this reform process. We look forward to continuing the journey with them over the next few years. For my part, I am determined to lead from the front in terms of introducing new and innovative policies and technologies to address this challenge.”

Minister Gormley referred to the changes which he has made to the Building Regulations in December 2007 - which require new dwellings to achieve a 40% reduction in energy consumption and a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions from 1 July next. The Minister added - “I will further update the Building Regulations in 2010 to achieve a 60% improvement over the 2005 standards for new dwellings.”

Minister Gormley complimented the RIAI for the recent introduction of a statutory registration scheme for architects - the legal provision for which he, as Minister, had commenced on 1 May 2008. “The Building Control Act 2007 rightly provides that the legitimate use of the title 'architect' is restricted to properly-qualified professionals whose names are entered on a national statutory register. Similar provisions will apply to the titles of 'Quantity Surveyor' and 'Building Surveyor'" - the Minister stated.

The Minister presented the 'Most Sustainable Building Award' - which is sponsored annually by his Department - to the winning client, designer, contractor and site foreman of the winning entry - the Civic Offices building in Cork City. The Department had again commissioned the beautiful statuette - The Messenger' - in Irish Bog Oak, with the theme - 'The Artist lives in hope for a better tomorrow'.

A private house overlooking Lough Swilly in Co Donegal - Tuath na Mara - won the first ever Public Choice Award category - voted on by the public. The house in Portsalon - with its zig-zag roof to catch both the rising and the setting sun - also won Best House award.

Architect Tarla MacGabhann, who designed the house with his brother Antoin, said the public award was “profoundly more important” to them than awards they have won from their peers. “What we do as architects must be experienced and encountered by the public on a daily basis. That’s what really matters. This is a public endorsement” - he said. Their firm has also been nominated in a category for the internationally-renowned Stirling Award for the new regional cultural centre in Letterkenny.

Minister Gormley extended his warm congratulations to all the winners and to all those whose work was of such high quality that it merited short-listing - and formally opened the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards 2008 Exhibition.

Landfill levy increases to €20

Mr John Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has increased the landfill levy - effective as of 1 July 2008 - using the power available to him under the Waste Management Acts.

The Waste Management (Landfill Levy) Order 2008 amends section 73(3) of the Waste Management Acts 1996 to 2008 to allow for the landfill levy to be increased from €15 per tonne for each tonne of waste disposed of at an authorised landfill facility.

As of 1 July 2008, the landfill levy rate is €20 per tonne for each tonne of waste disposed of at authorised landfill facilities. The landfill levy rate remains at €20 per tonne for each tonne of waste disposed of at unauthorised landfill facilities.

Tara campaigners in bid to have M3 motorway ruling struck out

CAMPAIGNERS who lost a lengthy court battle to reroute the controversial M3 motorway are seeking legal advice over reports on the archaeological heritage in the area.

The TaraWatch group, led by Vincent Salafia, have asked lawyers to look into whether a High Court ruling backing the road may be struck out.

The Sixth World Archaeological Congress, which began in Dublin yesterday, is examining a report by an expert who assessed the significance of historical sites along the M3 route in Co Meath.

It has questioned archaeological findings which paved the way for work to begin on the road. "Legal advice is immediately being sought,'' Mr Salafia said. "There may be a possibility of vacating the judgment or, at a minimum, suing for damages."

The High Court ruled in 2005 that none of the 38 areas examined before construction on the road began were national monuments and that the wider area around the Hill of Tara could not be considered a single national monument.

TaraWatch will this week meet officials from the UNESCO group as it continues its campaign to have the Hill of Tara and surrounding lands declared a World Heritage Site.

Ed Carty
Irish Independent

Minister urges Port of Cork to think again

MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has urged the Port of Cork to consult more widely with local groups in Cork harbour when preparing any alternative plan for the transfer of its container terminal from Tivoli to another location in the harbour.

The Port of Cork had applied under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for permission to develop a new €160 million container terminal at Oysterbank in Ringaskiddy, but An Bord Pleanála refused permission last Friday following a 15-day oral hearing into the matter in April.

The board said that while it accepted the need to move port activities from Tivoli, it believed that the Ringaskiddy site did not have an adequate road network.

Mr Martin said the board's decision clearly highlighted the need for a return to rail in the years to come as a means of transporting freight in order to reduce CO2 emission.

"There were a lot of concerns among local residents and environmental groups in terms of the specific plans by the port.

"I think the port will have to take those concerns on board and they will have to consult more with people in the harbour before they come back again," he said.

The Irish Times

Sunday, 29 June 2008

'College planners' could turn West Connemara into a national park

COUNTY Council policy could turn West Connemara into a 'National Park' missing one vital commodity - people. The planning agenda for rural County Galway is straightforward enough - keep the number of houses built out in the countryside to the lowest number possible.

Get the people to live in the towns and villages. Increase the size of Galway city substantially and let West Connemara drift into a national park. That summary would be strongly contested by the planners in County Galway and they would point out that rural Galway is getting a fair crack of the whip.

The arguments will soon start again. For Galway County Council will soon be preparing the new County Development Plan which will be the planning 'bible' for all of this county - outside of the city - during the period 2009-2014.

Galway County Council will bring their first draft of the new County Development Plan before county councillors in about six weeks time. You can be sure the document will contain the statement 'proper planning and sustainable development' more than once.

When this statement is brought down to everyday use, it means that most people should live in villages, towns and in Galway city - and that rural housing should be cut back. Where is this philosophy and policy coming from?

Somewhere in the documents and policies relating to planning you will find this statement: 'To maintain the open character of the Irish countryside'. If you are to preserve this 'open character' you would need to cut down on buildings.

It's a policy that is supported generally by the professional planners and is obviously the 'gospel' in the training colleges. It is also supported by groups like An Taisce, the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, planners organisations, the Green Party and more. So what's the idea and is there sense to it? It depends on where you are coming from. The planning fraternity and the groups that are pushing for this agenda will say that 'one off houses are contrary to the principles of 'proper planning and sustainable development'.

So why is that? Spoiling views and causing pollution? Well, for a start, they claim that houses clutter the countryside, spoil the views, and also lead to pollution because of so many septic tanks.

They also claim that it costs a huge amount of money to spread out services such as water, electricity etc. to houses far apart from each other. The constituency that support the villages and towns model of living also say that 'one off houses in the countryside leads to more travel and cars on the roads because people have to travel to towns to work.

If they were living in the towns, the journey times would be shorter and the amount of pollution would be lessened. They would all sound like logical enough reasons for putting people into villages and towns and cities.

All you would have in the countryside would be those who were farming. The arguments in favour of this urbanisation of this county and this country can be stacked up to a logical case. But there is another picture. A pioneering Irish American businessman, Mark McCormack once wrote an iconic book entitled 'What they do not teach you at the Harvard Business School'.

In simple terms, he was saying that the academic teaching of business could be a million miles away from the real world of day to day reality. Somebody could also probably write a book entitled: 'What they do not teach you at the Planning Colleges'.

The Irish Rural Dwellers Association has been pointing out for some years that there is little emphasis on rural issues in the planning colleges.

But there are realities in the Galway countryside and throughout rural Ireland that seem to escape the champions of 'proper planning and sustainable development'.

We have a long time attachment to the soil - even though, in places like Connemara, it might sometimes not be much more than a few acres of bog and rushes.

And people in rural Ireland have a strong attachment to parish and to community. And many of them continue to want to live in rural communities - close to families, their traditional schools, GAA clubs etc. And many want to live out in the countryside - not in villages. That may not fit nicely into the 'proper planning and sustainable development' argument.

It means more houses in the countryside and more septic tanks. But attachment to traditions, attachment to communities, attachment to the countryside and a desire to maintain family connections to an area are very real.

You could call it the heartbeat of rural communities. But fitting heartbeats into little 'sustainable' planning boxes does not work. And it seems there is little real account of all of these matters in the broader planning regimes.

But hold it there! Plenty of permissions say planners. The planners would have an answer to the above scenario. The planners would pull out the statistics from their computers and point out that a high percentage of the planning applications granted in County Galway are for 'one off houses in rural areas. And they are right - to an extent.

But large housing schemes contain a high number of houses and they involve only one planning application also. Therefore there could be a lot more houses involved in one application in a village or town than - say 50 - planning applications in a rural area.

But even allowing for that, the planners will say that a high percentage of applications for 'one off houses in rural areas are granted. The reality is that the county councillors are mainly to thank for that. Remember 2002? The County Plan presently in place in Galway was put together in 2002 and 2003. It was adopted in May of 2003. There was uproar amongst Galway county councillors when the first draft of that plan was placed before them by the County Council management.

The focus of these Draft Plans in 2002 would have made it far more difficult to get planning permission in rural Galway. Such was the uproar that Councillors from all political sides got together - a rare occurrence - paid money from their own pockets and employed consultants of their own to write a new plan.

The main issue was the right to build a house in rural Galway. The councillors claimed they reversed, to some degree, the tougher policy being proposed by planners about rural houses.

The Government's 'Rural Housing Guidelines' issued in 2005 also strengthened the hand of those who want more scope for 'one off housing in rural communities. But the battle goes on. There is no better example than Ardaun in this county.

Ardaun ... and the 'National Park' Ardaun is the new town in the minds of planners that would extend from the east of Galway city to Oranmore. It would eventually have a population of anything up to 20,000. In reality, it would house much of the projected increase in the population in County Galway - both City and County.

Planners are all for it. Many county councillors are against it claiming it would drag people and developments in from the rural areas. But Ardaun fits into the 'proper planning and sustainable development' category.

And the seven year 'no sale' ban on rural houses in the country areas closer to the city is put there to further deter people from building in these communities. There is no other reason.

And what about the often expressed view that the agenda for Connemara is a 'National Park'? This is a somewhat broader policy than the County Plan alone. Sheep and cattle off the hills for half the year, a stated policy of eventually stopping turf cutting, SACs coming in the way of road developments, electricity lines and houses for people in the community.

Again, the people in favour of this conservation will make a strong case. But the end result is a step closer to a 'National Park' in the areas west of Oughterard and west of Casla. The County Plans have been rowing in with this policy in Connemara. Only a limited category of people can get planning permission due to environmental rules.

And with a fast decline in the population in West Connemara people are the most needed species - that is if the area is to develop.

It would appear that the Council planners only want a maintenance population 'out west' - and a maintenance population will not sustain communities. So is the policy to have less 'one off houses in the countryside, a preponderance of people in villages and towns, the development of Ardaun and a maintenance population in West Connemara?

It could be stated in other language... and it probably will be again in the new County Development Plan. The words will include 'proper planning and sustainable development'.

Mairtin 0 Cathain
Connacht Tribune

Irish Peatland Conservation Council call for stop to turf cutting

THE Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) is calling on the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, TD to bring turf cutting to a full stop in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs).

All of the active raised bogs in Ireland are protected as SACs or NHAs but as long as turf cutting is taking place they are not being protected.

Over a third of active raised bog has been lost in the last ten years as a direct cause of turf cutting, according to the IPCC.

Studies carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service have proven that turf cutting has a massively destructive impact on raised bogs, which are mounds of earth that support and are retained by turf.

Drainage and turf cutting around the edges of the bog lowers the water level within the bog causing the peat to dry out, which results in the vegetation around the bog dying out and it also prevents the bog from actively forming new peat.

Once turf cutting has been stopped restoration work on the raised bogs can be carried out, including drain blocking to prevent further loss of active raised bog and restoring damaged areas to become active once more.

The IPCC are expressing that it is vital to stop all turf cutting immediately in protected SACs and NHAs to save active raised bogs in Ireland from extinction.

The ban on turf cutting on raised bogs in SACs and NHAs is due to come into effect in the next year.

Sarah Egan
Liffey Champion

phibsborough planning

The Pisser Dignam could have the last laugh. Among the suggestions in the ambitious Local Area Plan for Phibsborough/Mountjoy is that the new "prime urban centre" should include that most fashionable of offerings – a farmers' market. If the plan is adopted, history will have come full circle – a century ago, part of the Bohemians FC pitch at Dalymount Park was originally a vegetable plot known as the Pisser Dignam's field.

A stock of fine red-brick terraces grew up in the surrounding Phibsborough area at about the same time, resulting in Victorian and Edwardian residences – many richer in architectural character than the supposedly swankier boroughs of Dublin 6 and 8.

Then, in what was considered progress during the late l960s, a row of such period houses was demolished on Phibsborough Road to make way for one of the first, but possibly the ugliest, of shopping centres built in Dublin. Just as the plans for a new shopping centre are on the cards, and hopes that the area will get that boost so long overdue, it was the building of the original seven-storey tower in 1969, just past Doyle's Corner, that marked the decline of Phibsborough as one of the city's oldest villages.

Sunday Independent

Doubts surround redevelopment future of Finglas shopping centre

Doubts have been raised about whether developer Bernard McNamara's plans to rebuild Finglas Main Centre will now go ahead, even though a long standing dispute with a local trader over the proposal has been resolved.

A decision is expected this week on whether to go ahead with plans to redevelop the site to include 14 retail units; 160 apartments; a library; a creche, and a number of offices.

A multi-storey car park with 310 spaces is also planned for the site. Reconstruction of the centre is the first element in a wider city council backed plan to redevelop the entire northside suburb.

Although a dispute with a local publican over access to the car park area which dragged on for years has been settled, negotiations with some tenants and leaseholders trading in the existing centre have also proved contentious.

Despite the fact that project managers Spain Courtney Doyle have arranged alternative temporary rent-free accommodation for traders while construction is underway, at least one business owner is believed to be resisting the proposal.

While the project managers have set a deadline of 1 July for agreement with the traders, some local politicians believe a decision has already been taken to scrap the reconstruction plan entirely.

"This project is dead in the water, I believe," says local Sinn Féin councillor Dessie Ellis. "I chaired a recent meeting between the developers and local politicians and they were at pains to point out the reality of the credit crunch and how there was a question mark over whether or not they could sell the apartments.

"Including a clause about a deadline for agreement with the traders in the deal struck over the car park issue seemed strange at the time. But we believed that forcing the issue would speed the project along. I believe they've made up their minds that it's not viable in the current economic climate to proceed with the project. Had an agreement been reached two or three years ago, then I think it would have gone ahead."

Bernard McNamara purchased the centre five years ago for €14m and was subsequently granted planning permission to redevelop the site. That permission is due to expire in July 2009.

"If that were to happen there's no guarantee that permission would be renewed automatically," says local Labour party TD Roisin Shortall. "And even if it were, one appeal could hold it up for a further nine months. McNamara says that traders have been holding up the project, and while that's true, I'm sure that if he wanted to get building underway he could have sorted that out.

"The demand isn't there for the housing element of the project. There are housing schemes in the area where phase one has been slow to sell and developers have held off on phase two.

"Finglas is a victim of the lack of communication between local authorities. The city council's regeneration plan was already in place when Fingal went ahead with the nearby Charlestown centre. That rendered the Finglas plan nonviable in my view. There is a strong sense that Finglas has missed the boat."

The council's regeneration strategy includes proposals for a new village square as well as new commercial and residential development in the general area.

Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the Superquinn site and for the credit union site on Seamus Ennis Road.

"There are plans to redevelop the entire village," a spokesman for the council's planning department says. "The Main Centre scheme was seen as the development that would kick start start the entire project."

"Businesses have been losing out because of the uncertainty over the main centre project," says Declan Maloney of the Finglas Traders' Association.

"It's now down to the developer whether or not the scheme goes ahead."

Project managers Spain Courtney Doyle did not respond to an invitation to comment on the matter.

Sunday Tribune

All-out war as Docks deals go to court

THREE of the biggest beasts in Ireland's property industry have been drawn into an all-out war over ambitious plans by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) to create a 'mini Manhattan' in the heart of the IFSC.

Separate claims by high-flying property magnates Johnny Ronan and Sean Dunne of a secret deal given to publicity-shy developer Liam Carroll have now landed the DDDA in the High Court.

The separate cases, which are being taken by Ronan's Spencer Dock Developments and Dunne's Mountbrook Homes respectively, centre on the Authority's agreement last year allowing Carroll to ignore the 2002 North Lotts Planning Scheme, and to pursue a new plan with the DDDA.

That plan allows Carroll to build more office blocks on the site owned by his company, North Quay Investments, changes the location of a garden area, and removes the requirement for him to build a new east-west road across the site.

In return for these concessions, Carroll agreed to cede a strip of land to the DDDA, which it plans to excavate for the construction of a new canal within the IFSC.

The Authority has further plans to obtain two additional strips of land owned by another of Johnny Ronan's companies, Real Estate Opportunities (REO), on either side of Carroll's site for the canal project through the execution of a compulsory purchase order.

Should it proceed, the construction of the new canal would see Carroll's site bounded on all sides by water, transforming it into what industry sources are describing as a 'mini Manhattan'.

Carroll is understood to be in the process of securing AIB and solicitors O'Donnell Sweeney Eversheds as tenants for the site.

Both Ronan and Dunne are strongly opposed to the proposals, with lawyers for both arguing that the confidential agreement reached between the DDDA and Liam Carroll on May 31 last year has the potential to cause significant damage to their development interests in the IFSC.

Sean Dunne, for his part, believes details of the confidential agreement should have been disclosed to him as a landowner adjoining Liam Carroll's North Lotts site.

The Mountbrook Homes supremo claims the permission given to Carroll to build to a greater density than the 2002 development plan permitted will lead to a situation where his own planned apartments will look out on to office blocks rather than a garden area, while access to his site will be restricted.

Ronan's Spencer Dock Developments, meanwhile, are arguing that they have been put at a distinct competitive disadvantage in their dealings with the DDDA as a result of its decision to reach a confidential agreement with Liam Carroll.

In an affidavit submitted by Spencer Dock Developments to the High Court, the company describes the Authority's move as "astonishing", adding that it "makes a mockery" of the process of consultation with interested developers.

Turning to the specific issue of the planning permission given to Liam Carroll on the North Lotts site, the affidavit sworn by director John Bruder claims Carroll was effectively given certainty, which allowed him to gain competitive advantage over other developers in terms of negotiating with prospective tenants in the IFSC.

The affidavit further alleges in angry terms: "It is now abundantly clear that the Applicant (Spencer Dock Developments) and all those working on its behalf were at all times wasting their time: the DDDA had a predetermined idea of how the lands should be developed and in the face of all our representations, the DDDA never budged in a material way.

"Now that I know about the agreement between NQIL and the DDDA, I understand why the DDDA did not budge," it continues.

If there is much frustration on the part of Johnny Ronan and his fellow directors, Sean Dunne would appear to be equally frustrated by events.

The Sunday Independent understands the Mountbrook Homes chief has, in tandem with his High Court case against the DDDA, already requested further information from the Authority about any arrangements it may be planning to enter into with the media-averse developer.

Eyebrows were already raised in property circles when Carroll let a planning permission he had been given by Dublin City Council in 2002 for a site next to the DDDA's planned U2 Tower on Sir John Rogerson's Quay lapse.

There was speculation that Carroll decided not to proceed with the site to mollify the DDDA, who sources believe would have been unhappy to see the U2 Tower having to compete with a parallel development.

Asked by the Sunday Independent if the Authority had reached any agreement with Mr Carroll that he would not proceed with developing the Sir John Rogerson's Quay site, a spokesman for the DDDA gave a categoric denial.

The spokesman said: "The Authority wishes to categorically state that no verbal or written agreement was ever sought or given in relation to Liam Carroll losing his planning permission on Sir John Rogerson's Quay.

"This planning permission was not renewed by Dublin City Council. There is, therefore, absolutely no linkage between this site and the North Lotts area, or any other area, in which Liam Carroll is developing," he said.

Dunne's case against the DDDA is the latest episode in his long-running struggle against Carroll.

Back in 2005, the two crossed paths as Dunne fought to gain control of the Jury's Doyle Hotel (JDH) Group at the height of the speculative grab for land in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin 4.

With tensions running high, Carroll emerged as the potential kingmaker at a crucial juncture in the struggle for JDH, with an eight per cent shareholding under his belt.

At one point, it is understood he promised to sell those shares to Dunne, before then selling them to the Doyle family instead.

Sunday Independent

Higgins set to delay Beacon development

Joe Higgins, the former TD and Socialist Party leader, plans to appeal a decision to grant planning permission for a €250 million private hospital in Limerick.

Beacon Medical Group (BMG) received planning permission to build a 183-bedroom hospital in the grounds of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle two weeks ago. However, Higgins and a number of local residents plan to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

Building work on the hospital was due to start in September, but will be delayed until the appeal is complete. The construction process will take up to two and a half years.

‘‘We are not entirely surprised [by the appeal], but we are disappointed that what we believe is a critical and important healthcare infrastructure will be delayed as a result. There is an acute need for more beds,” said Michael Cullen, chief executive of Beacon.

Higgins, who lost his seat in the general election last year, has also objected to a decision to award Beacon planning permission for a private hospital in the grounds of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. Hewas the sole objector to that project.

Cullen said that the ability of one person to delay a project was ‘‘an example of democracy gone mad’’. He said that the hospital project would create 500 high-salaried jobs, and formed part of government policy to increase the supply of hospital beds.

Beacon has asked An Bord Pleanála to dismiss Higgins’ objection on the basis that it was ‘‘vexatious and purely based on ideology. The remit of An Bord Pleanála is to hear appeals based on planning matters, not the political and ideological objections of a failed politician,” he said.

Higgins said he appealed the Beaumont decision because the proposed site for the Beacon hospital was originally earmarked for an extension of psychiatric services. Beacon’s planned hospital in Cork also received the green light from local planners, but that decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The government strategy of co-locating private hospitals beside public hospitals is designed to reduce the number of public hospital beds occupied by private patients.

Eight public hospitals were earmarked for private facilities, but project agreements have been signed for only three projects spearheaded by Beacon.

Sunday Business Post

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Docklands redevelopment could face delays

PARTS of the multi-billion euro regeneration of Cork’s docklands could be delayed by the Ringaskiddy decision.

The relocation of the Port of Cork’s activities downstream from the city centre is crucial for the city to proceed with its transformation of the sprawling docklands region.

But An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for the new container terminal at Oysterbank has thrown a spanner in the works.

It effectively prevents the port’s efforts to move activities from their Tivoli container terminal, which has reached capacity, downstream.

This will almost certainly have a knock-on effect on the scheduling of its relocation of the rest of its activities at the city centre quays.

It was unclear last night how the decision will impact on the time-scale.

But in the meantime, city council plans to develop a local area plan to guide future development of the Tivoli site will almost certainly be delayed.

The council has already drawn up two master plans — a north docks local area plan (LAP) and a south docks LAP — to guide development of the docklands.

The 166-hectare region with 4kms of waterfront has the capacity to accommodate a population of at least 15,000, and a working population of almost 20,000.

Up to 6,000 homes will be built, alongside more than 500,000sq m of office space, educational institutions, retail outlets as well as culture and leisure facilities.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s decision may strengthen the port company’s interest in the 114-acre former IFI site at Marino Point, facing Passage West.

Critically, that Marino Point site, which is currently for sale for €40 million, has a rail head, as well as deep water berth/jetty and road access.

The Marino Point lands went back up for sale in January of this year, with expressions of interest sought by March. However, no sale decision has yet been reached. It is largely owned by hotel and bars owner Hugh O’Regan, who paid about €25m for it four years ago.

Irish Examiner

Port reconsiders terminal after €160m plan veto

THE Port of Cork is considering scaled down plans for a new container terminal after its plans for a €160 million super terminal were shot down.

The board of the port company met yesterday to discuss its options after An Bórd Pleanála refused planning permission for the proposed new facility at Oysterbank in Ringaskiddy.

The project was one of the first processed through the State’s Strategic Infrastructure Bill system designed to fast-track large infrastructural projects.

But after considering its inspector’s report, compiled after a three-week oral hearing held in April, the board said the project should not go ahead because of poor road infrastructure and the complete lack of rail links.

It was the first project refused using the fast-track process. The decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Solicitor Joe Noonan, who represented the Cork Harbour Environmental Protection Agency, said residents are delighted their argument the project could never proceed on planning grounds was accepted.

Port chief executive Brendan Keating described the decision as a setback and said the port must be “vigorous and comprehensive with new proposals”.

“The Port of Cork is adamant the growth in trade needs to be facilitated by the port and the economy of the region is dependent upon the port’s infrastructure which must have the capacity to handle growing volumes of trade,” he said.

Cork Chamber president Joe Gantly said he was disappointed with the decision which he said will have a knock-on impact on wider economic development in the region. He called on the Government to invest in crucial transport links around the city.

His calls were backed by Fine Gael TD Deirdre Clune: “The idea that this development could have been approved without the N28 being first upgraded was always unlikely.

“The Taoiseach must now decide if the relocation of the Port of Cork is a government priority."

Irish Examiner

Proposal could give planning exemption for energy plants

HOUSING estate residents may wake up one morning to discover a biomass energy development -- the same size as their estate -- built next door if new proposals go ahead.

And the developments will be governed by the same planning regulations that cover kitchen extensions, conservatories and porches.

Under new proposals by Environment Minister John Gormley, biomass, heat recovery and composting developments of some 1,000 square metres -- the size of a small housing estate -- will be entirely exempt from planning regulations.

Exemptions will be provided in the case of wind turbines of 8m in width and 20m in height. They will cover combined heat and power systems, 300sq m in size and 8m in height, and with flues of 20m in height as well as significant extensions to schools.

Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton last night said the proposal would have serious implications for local residents.

"Wind energy and biomass developments half of the size or even the same size as an adjacent housing estate will be totally exempt from the planning process and there will be no requirement to provide an environmental impact statement," she told the Dail.

"This is not the way to provide transparency in planning matters, which I understood was a hallmark of the Green Party.

"We are opposed to this provision."

Anyone could wake up in the morning to discover a biomass development the same size as their housing estate right alongside it, she said.

"Will the Tanaiste ask the Minister to come to the House for a debate on provisions that will affect the residents of every housing estate in the State?" she asked Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.

"We all welcome the exemptions that exist in those cases but we do not welcome this proposal.

"Nor will the constituents of Members on the Government benches when they find such developments taking place beside their own housing estates," she insisted.

Ms Burton said Labour Party spokesman on the environment, Ciaran Lynch, had spent the past several days trying to find out what is encompassed in these additional exemptions, but nobody could tell him.

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan said the issue would be discussed at committee, and followed up by committee if needed.


"I wish to be helpful. I will ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or somebody in his Department to brief the Deputy on this prior to the committee meeting, which I assume will be next week," she said.

"If Members are not satisfied with the outcome of the discussions in committee, this can be brought to the Whips' attention and we can deal with it in the full forum of this Chamber."

Patricia McDonagh
Irish Independent

Developer pushes for lower price in council land deal

CONSTRUCTION FIRM Stanley Holdings says it is not in a position to complete a major land purchase from Dublin City Council at the moment for the agreed price of €60 million.

Blaming the downturn in construction, the company wants to pay a reduced price of €47.9 million for the land at Balgriffin, or else defer payment of most of the money for three years and make it subject to obtaining planning permission, local councillors have been told.

In June 2006, the company agreed to buy 9.3 hectares of land on the Malahide Road through a subsidiary, Belmayne Contracts Ltd, for €47.9 million.

The deal required the developer to build a public square and access road and provide 20 per cent social and affordable housing as part of plans to create a new town on the so-called "northern fringe" of the city.

The contract contained an "uplift clause" allowing the council to renegotiate the price if property values in the area rose. This happened, and the price increased to €60 million. However, two years on, no contract has been signed and no planning permission has been applied for. Now, according to a reply given by council officials to local Labour councillor Seán Kenny, the company says it cannot pay the €60 million.

Instead, it is offering to pay the original sum of €47.9 million, or else pay €5 million now and the remaining €55 million in three years' time, subject to planning permission being granted for the site.

A spokesman for Stanley Holdings confirmed that it was not prepared to pay the €60 million price in the current climate, and admitted the council was "not keen" on settling for less.

"We haven't walked away from this deal by any means. The only thing that has changed is the timing of the payment."

He blamed the difficulty on the "very challenging" state of the residential market at present, but predicted agreement with the council would be reached within weeks.

He said the company was pressing ahead with plans for an international architectural competition for the design of the civic plaza, and a master plan was being finalised. A planning application could be submitted early next year once agreement is reached with the council.

The council declined to comment, saying contractual talks were continuing and the information was commercially sensitive.

The original deal with Stanley Holdings caused controversy when it emerged that it was not put out to tender. Council officials argued that the approach taken represented the quickest route to progress, given that the firm already owned the adjoining land.

Stanley Holdings has a 10-year planning permission to build 2,600 units at Belmayne, across the Malahide Road. In spite of an eye-catching advertising campaign featuring glamorous models, the company struggled to sell the 850 units built so far and was forced to drop prices. "The last six months have been very quiet, but before that we did well," the spokesman said. About 600 units have been sold and building will continue until January, after which the situation would be reviewed, he said.

Irish Times

Cork container terminal plan rejected

THE DECISION by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission to the Port of Cork for a new €160 million container terminal was greeted with disappointment by the port, while local environmental campaigners hailed the decision as a vindication of the planning process.

The Port of Cork had applied to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for permission to develop the new terminal on a 37-hectare site at Oysterbank in Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour to replace the existing container terminal at Tivoli.

An Bord Pleanála held an oral hearing into the application which ran for 15 days before its inspector Paul Caprani, but yesterday the board ruled that the proposal was contrary to proper planning for the area and refused the application.

The board said that while it accepted the need to move port activities from Tivoli Docks, it believed that the Ringaskiddy site was not adequately served by a road network capable of taking the extra traffic generated.

The proposal would result in much port-related traffic traversing the city road network and would exacerbate serious traffic congestion at strategic interchanges at Bloomfield, Dunkettle, Kinsale Road and the Jack Lynch Tunnel, said the board. Moving the container terminal to Ringaskiddy would also mean that it would be unable to use rail freight facilities and would therefore represent "a retrograde step" in sustainable transport planning, An Bord Pleanála ruled.

Port chief executive Brendan Keating said he was very disappointed with the decision but that the port would spend the next three months examining the decision and teasing out its implications for development.

"This is a setback and means that we must be vigorous and comprehensive with new proposals," said Mr Keating, adding the port would only look at seeking a judicial review of the board's decision as "a very last option".

Mr Keating said that the port will be able to continue operating at Tivoli up until 2012, but will face a serious challenge to cope with container traffic after that.

However, An Bord Pleanála's decision was welcomed by Cork Harbour Environmental Protection Association which had objected to the proposal and pointed out that the National Roads Authority had indicated that it would be 2011 before it could start upgrading the N28 to Ringaskiddy.

The protection association's solicitor Joe Noonan said the port plan was a bad proposal - a view that was shared by Cork County Council, the Department of Defence and the coastal zone management unit at the marine department, he said.

"The real thing that's needed is a master plan for the harbour and Cork County Council is recognising that - a plan that would take into account all of the various interests around the harbour such as tourism, residential, leisure and industrial, including port-related activities," said Mr Noonan.

Irish Times

Funding shortfall halts social housing scheme

FUNDING FOR voluntary social housing in Dublin has been suspended because the city council has used up its annual allocation under the main scheme operated by the Department of the Environment.

A department spokesman said the council had reached its allocated borrowing level for the year and, as a result, no further social housing projects would be sanctioned under the scheme.

Dublin City Council’s allocation under the Capital Loan and Subsidy Scheme is €29 million out of a total of €160 million nationally. It had planned to spend over €87 million.

The funding crisis has arisen because of a glut in completions of Part V housing units; these are units built by developers to meet their obligations to provide 20 per cent social and affordable housing, and which are then sold to local authorities.

After a slow start, the number of Part V completions has soared and, with it, the bill payable by county councils. This has drawn funds away from traditional projects undertaken by housing associations and charitable groups.

The department spokesman said the Part V housing scheme gets priority because the houses are built.

Another factor prompting councils to divert money to Part V housing is believed to be the fear of litigation if developers are not paid.

Irish Times

Thursday, 26 June 2008

More details sought on Carlton site

DUBLIN CITY Council has asked for further information before making a decision on plans for a €1.25 billion redevelopment of a site centred on the former Carlton cinema on O’Connell Street.

Planners have sought the information in relation to 14 aspects of the “Dublin Central” scheme which proposes more than 100 apartments, the same number of shops and a sloping public park at roof level with panoramic views over the city.

Over 20 objections were received to the proposals.

Developer Chartered Land has been asked to supply more details to address the “inherent design challenges” posed by the height of the public space and the need to ensure public access.

Planners also say that access to the sloping garden should be free and open to all.

They say they support the proposal for a civic space facing on to O’Connell Street. However, they want it changed so the design adheres to “sympathetic, restrained, formal and classic proportions expressed in contemporary idiom”.

They also want the proposed retail anchor store which will front on to O’Connell Street to acknowledge the “classic, historic and stone language” of the street by using more natural stone in the facade “in a contemporary idiom”.

In relation to the Moore Street frontage, the planners want more space devoted to ground-floor restaurants and cafes, and larger floor areas to support multi-ethnic food operations.

The developers have also been asked to take account of the concerns of the council’s conservation officer.

This includes his opinion that No 45 O’Connell Street dates from the mid-18th century, and the impact of 10-storey buildings adjacent to Parnell Street on view of Parnell Square and the Rotunda.

Irish Times

Bord rejects Greystones scheme

PLANS FOR A 200-unit housing estate in Greystones have been refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.

Developer Town Park Estates was seeking permission to build 206 houses on a 10-hectare site on Chapel Road in Greystones beside Blacklion Manor scheme.

Last year the local authority refused permission for the scheme because the residential density was too high.

Irish Times

Thumbs up for 241 homes on Old Wesley club grounds in Stepaside

CASTLETHORN CONSTRUCTION has been given permission to develop the grounds of Old Wesley Rugby Club in Stepaside, Co Dublin.

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for the scheme which will see 241 homes built on the site, located on the outskirts of the fast-developing south Dublin village.

Going against the advice of its own planning inspector to reduce the proposed scheme by half, An Bord Pleanála cut the scheme back by only 39 units.

The inspector had recommended that the board refuse permission for residential units on the northern section of the site on the grounds that these lands are covered by a zoning objective, which seeks to preserve and provide open space and recreational amenities.

The board, however, did not take the same view and ruled that the proposal did not contravene the zoning provisions of the development plan.

The developer now has permission to demolish the former rugby club and pitches to make way for houses, duplex units and apartments in blocks of up to six storeys.

A one-hectare segment of the overall 4.8-hectare site has been reserved for a playing pitch.

Among objectors to the scheme were An Taisce which criticised the proposed development because of the loss of playing pitches and inadequate public open space.

Local residents groups also objected to the scheme on a number of grounds, including overlooking, overshadowing, loss of pitches and impact on schools and traffic.

An Bord Pleanála stipulated that the developer must pay €1.47 million towards the extension of the Luas line from Sandyford to Cherrywood.

The decision comes after Castlethorn Construction secured planning permission to redevelop part of the former Dún Laoghaire Golf Club course.

Irish Times

Toxic waste cover-up - Firm told to leave 500,000 tonnes of material on site

THE Department of the Environment has been accused of a “cover-up” concerning the extent of highly hazardous waste buried at what has been described as potentially “the largest and most extensive pollution incident in the history of the State”.

Documents seen by the Irish Examiner indicate that the department told a sub-contracting firm involved in a clean-up operation at the controversial Irish Steel site at Haulbowline Island near Cork to “cap” lagoons containing hazardous waste, rather than remove the potentially deadly material — estimated at about 500,000 tonnes.

The documents also reveal the waste includes highly toxic substances such as chromium 6 — the second most dangerous carcinogen — as well as hydrocarbons and other oil and metal byproducts. The cost of the operation at Haulbowline to date also suggests a full clean-up of the site could cost up to €300 million.

An official investigation, the findings of which have been seen by the Irish Examiner, has already found that the waste material is “likely” to be a “severe” health risk to people locally, such as the residents of Cobh and navy personnel based nearby, mainly because of toxic dust getting carried by the wind.

It also represents a huge risk to flora and fauna.

A health and safety company, which was sub-contracted to clean up the site last October, said in its initial submission that it would remove any hazardous waste from the site “for disposal”, with the agreement of local representatives from the department.

However, a letter sent to the contractors by the department on April 18 last told them: “It is the considered view of the department, following consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency and Cork County Council, that the required course of action will be to cap the lagoon with inert slag material (or other such suitable available material), pending a detailed risk assessment of the entire site.”

This recommendation came despite the fact that an investigation and assessment was carried out six years ago on behalf of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The sub-contractors said they had already removed 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste from the site, at a cost of €50m, and shipped it to Germany for disposal.

The German company involved in processing the waste has already written to the contractors expressing concern about the level of chromium 6 contained in the material. According to sub-contractors Louis J O’Regan Ltd, the Department of the Environment owes them €20m for the removal of hazardous waste and has terminated their contract. The company says health and safety legislation obliges them to complete the removal of the waste. “They told us to bury the waste and we didn’t,” said a representative from Louis J O’Regan Ltd. “Under health and safety regulations, we can’t hand back the site until it is all done.”

Environmental consultant Stephen Griffin, engaged by the contractors to oversee the project, told the Irish Examiner that information on the hazardous waste has been with the department since 2001 and that the contractors “were refused access to this”. The extent of the problem was only realised when clean-up work started.

Mr Griffin accused the EPA, Cork County Council and the department of a “a cover-up”.

To cap the waste — with further waste — rather than remove it, he said, would “go against every environmental principle that has ever been written, apart from Irish law and European law and health and safety law”, he said. However, the department said in a statement last night the sub-contractors had carried out “unauthorised works” following the discovery of the pit of hazardous waste. It accused the sub-contractors of refusing to vacate the site and continuing to operate “without authorisation and in a piecemeal fashion causing a threat to the environment by its actions” and described accusations of a cover-up as “entirely false”.

Environment Minister John Gormley last night insisted he remained committed to transforming the site from an environmental liability into an asset for the region. “My officials are finalising a report on the site, which will outline options for its future, which I hope to bring to government in the autumn. Work has been ongoing for the last five years to properly assess the site, so that an informed decision on its future can be made.

“In relation to the recent issues regarding sub-contractors on the site, the department, acting on best expert advice of the EPA, ordered the unauthorised work to stop, as there were serious concerns that the work being carried out in such a piecemeal fashion posed a significant environmental risk,” he said.

According to the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), who accused Cork County Council of a “cover-up”, the council refused to release 19 out of 20 records on the issue. FIE described the contamination as “the largest and most extensive pollution incident in the history of the State”. Cork County Council said it was a matter for the department.

Irish Examiner

Green light for Gresham Hotel revamp

DUBLIN CITY Council has approved plans for a major revamp of Dublin’s Gresham Hotel which will it expand the number of its bedrooms by almost 50 per cent.

Owner Precinct Investment has secured permission for significant expansion and refurbishment of the hotel, including the addition of 179 new hotel rooms and a new glazed conference facility on the eight floor.

Designed by architects Cantrell and Crowley, the plans for the 288-bedroom hotel also include a day spa, fitness area and courtyard garden at first floor level.

The hotel’s restaurant and a new shop will be at Cathal Brugha Street along with the kitchens and a new function room. A new executive lounge and roof garden will be at seventh floor level.

The revamp of the four-star hotel will also involve the demolition of a number of structures to the rear of the hotel and some plant rooms at roof level.

There was only one objector to the scheme, An Taisce. Welcoming the changes, the environmental charity said the revamp of the “iconic” hotel, along with the development of the Carlton site, will “form a key element in the regeneration and upgrading of Upper O’Connell Street”.

But it expressed concern about the proposed conference facility which it described as a “glazed box” which would “sit above the the existing hotel” and would “excessively” dominate views in and around O’Connell Street and detract from the skyline.

Irish Times

Aldi checks out the apartment market

GERMANS ARE usually known for their good timing, but Aldi must surely be regretting their late entry into the property development game.

The discount store has just secured planning permission to build 107 apartments beside a new store in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

Fingal County Council has granted permission for the apartments along with 4,542sq m (48,890sq ft) of office space and four smaller retail units on a 2.5-hectare site, which stretches from Clonard Hill Road to the cemetery at Naul Road.

That said, Aldi is not the only food multinational breaking into the property game.

Supermarket giant Tesco is behind a number of significant residential schemes in the UK. It has plans for close to 981 homes and a store in Woolwich, 900 student flats and 300 homes in Glasgow, and proposals for a new 8,000-home town at Hinxton Grange, just off the A11 in Cambridgeshire.

The thinking is: if you are going to expand your chain, why not pick undeveloped land and build a captive audience around your store.

Irish Times

Planning rules for prefabs and schools altered

SMALL school extensions and prefabs will not require planning permission under new proposals published by the Environment Minister John Gormley, writes Aine Kerr.

In addition, certain renewable technologies centring on biomass facilities, will also be exempt from the normal planning process according to the draft Planning and Development Regulations from the Department of the Environment.

But last night, the Labour Party's Ciaran Lynch objected to some of the proposed changes.

He said: "We should be reluctant to give exemptions to any area.

"What we need are tighter planning regulations and the clearing of any difficulties within the process.

Irish Independent

'Sky Park' project falls back to earth

AMBITIOUS plans for the €1.2bn 'Sky Park' redevelopment of a cinema-site have been hit by a delay of up to eight months, after the local authority said it needs a raft of additional information.

Dublin City Council have highlighted concerns about traffic management, parking and the movement of fleets of construction trucks, before it can decide whether or not to grant planning permission.

It also sought assurances that facades facing from the Carlton Cinema site onto O'Connell Street are sympathetic and have "classic proportions".

Parts of the 5.5 acre site, bound by O'Connell Street, Parnell Street, Moore Street and Henry Street, have been lying empty for almost three decades, while the cinema closed 14 years ago.

The plans include 110 retail units, including an anchor retailer on O'Connell Street, 108 apartments, office space, three new public squares and a roof-top restaurant quarter.

The development also includes a centrepiece "Park in the Sky", which will stand 50m above the city streets.

Planning officials have requested further details on this part of the project.

The council has allowed the developer up to six months to provide the extra information. It could then take planning officials anything up to two months to plough through the details.

Breda Heffernan

Plan for telecom mast rejected

Planning permission for a 30-metre high telecommunications mast in an area of natural beauty in Co Mayo has been refused by An Bord Pleanála.

Galway-based Elevation Limited appealed to the board following Mayo County Council's decision to refuse permission for the structure at Carrowmoney, Partry, south Mayo. The site, at Carrawina is one kilometre from Lough Carra and Lough Mask.

A total of 24 letters, and a petition with over 350 signatures, were received objecting to the original application to Mayo County Council.

The objections related to the adverse visual impact on landscape, potential health hazards, inaccurate details, proximity to archaeological sites, intrusive impact on nearby residential properties, contravention of county development plan policies and devaluation of properties.

Elevation Limited sought to justify the mast on the basis of an alleged lack of mobile and broadband provision in the area.

Irish Times

Dublin docklands €4.5bn expansion plan goes on show

A €4.5 billion plan for the further development of Dublin's docklands has been put on display for public consultation.

The master plan by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) includes proposals for high-rise buildings, thousands of new apartments, major architectural set pieces and cultural landmarks. The plan, which covers the period 2008 to 2013, proposes up to eight 20-storey towers along Dublin's seafront as part of a policy of allowing higher densities, particularly near public transport routes.

It also envisages not only the extension of the Luas line from Connolly Station to the Point theatre, which is currently under construction, but a further extension to the Poolbeg peninsula.

Major projects in the plan which are already under construction include a new bridge across the Liffey by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and the new Grand Canal Theatre due for completion in 2010.

The new plan includes a greater emphasis on family-friendly living compared to before, with developers having to provide facilities that benefit the community as well as ensuring adequate play spaces are provided for children.

Paul Maloney, chief executive of the DDDA, expressed confidence yesterday that the downturn in the economy would not derail the ambitious plans.

Spending of €1.7 billion by the public sector and €2.8 billion by the private sector is envisaged.

Previous plans were drawn up during periods of economic adversity but still managed to reach their targets, he pointed out.

Many of the infrastructural projects form part of the National Development Plan, which the Government was committed to maintaining.

Mr Maloney said the partnership model pursued by the DDDA was "fundamentally different" from the public-private partnership schemes which had collapsed elsewhere in the city.

Acknowledging the problems that had arisen with previous plans, he said the latest document included a greater commitment to the use of local labour during construction.

It also contained stronger regulations on the provision of play facilities and simplified the management of apartment complexes by proposing a single management company for social, affordable and privately owned units.

A community trust is also being established to take over the ownership of social housing in the area.

The authority proposes to extend the areas of section 25 planning schemes, which do not go through the normal planning process and are subject instead to the final approval of the Minister for the Environment.

The plan is available for inspection at the DDDA's former offices on Custom House Quay until August 1st.

It is also going on travelling display in seven locations around the docklands between now and the start of July. Further information is available at

The closing date for submissions is September 12th.

Irish Times

Monday, 23 June 2008

Taoiseach launches restoration plan for Rahan monastic site in Offaly

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen joined his younger brother councillor Barry Cowen on their first official function together since Cllr Cowen was elected cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council last week.

The Taoiseach launched the Rahan monastic site conservation plan at the 800-year-old church of St Carthage, just outside Tullamore, early on Saturday morning. The event was attended by four Cistercian monks, who performed a medieval chant at the beginning of the ceremony.

Making his apologies for being a few minutes late, the Taoiseach joked that he had obviously developed bad habits since his days in the Cistercian College in Roscrea, when he would never have dared to be late.

He also pointed out how ironic it was to have come from the "hallowed halls of Brussels" the day before to the simple beauty of the church of St Carthage, especially in view of how European civilisation had been saved by monks from places like St Carthage's monastery in Rahan.

The Taoiseach went on to joke that the Rahan monastic site conservation plan was "very readable - unlike the Lisbon Treaty".

"Rahan monastic site is a wonderful example of a monument which is an important element of both our national and European heritage. It is of immense local importance to the archaeological and architectural heritage of this historic county.

"This beautiful church is a physical legacy of the church reforms of the 12th century. It displays evidence of our cosmopolitan past, where art and architecture were influenced by other areas in western Europe and Scandinavia. It also shows, through its stone carvings, how Ireland adapted these influences to create its own unique style."

James Howley, of Howley Hayes Architects, who is overseeing the restoration project, said the church of St Carthage was a remarkable building by any standards, national or international.

"It was built over 800 years ago and still fulfils its original function as a place of divine worship."

The Taoiseach added he was greatly encouraged by the level of community enthusiasm for heritage projects in Offaly.

Irish Times

New code to link housing plans with schools

LOCAL AUTHORITIES will be obliged to make sure there are enough schools to meet demand when drawing up development plans, under a major piece of planning policy being proposed by the Government.

The new protocol - which will be backed by regulations - is designed to prevent problems where rapid population growth in certain areas has led to inadequate school places to meet demand.

In Balbriggan, north Dublin, in 2007, new schools were established as an emergency measure when existing schools were unable to cope because of a rapid growth in population on the back of a house-building boom.

The Schools Planning Protocol is a joint initiative of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education in response to that situation.

It will be published by both departments tomorrow.

The protocol will set out a code of practice for local authorities to ensure the planning system is more efficient in identifying quickly where there is demand for schools and locating appropriate sites that will allow the timely construction of schools.

It will be underpinned by new regulations that will require local authorities to adhere to the code in its development plans.

The initiative has been driven by Minister of State for the Environment Michael Finneran in conjunction with the senior Minister John Gormley and Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe.

Briefing material seen by The Irish Times states that it will integrate the provision of schools more closely with the drawing up of development plans.

Sources close to the project have said that it will make sure that where large new housing developments are being built, there is adequate school provision for all the families that will inevitably live there.

It stressed the requirement of county councils and city councils to engage with the Department of Education before land is zoned or rezoned for substantial residential development.

The initiative is one of a number of new measures on planning being organised by the Department of the Environment.

Mr Gormley will present three new regulations to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment tomorrow, aimed at streamlining the planning code.

One of the regulations also relates to schools. It will provide exemptions for minor school development works and temporary school facilities, such as prefabricated buildings.

In future, small extensions to school buildings, or what are described as "temporary school facilities" will not require planning permission.

A further regulation will also make certain renewable technologies exempt from planning permission requirement. Last year, such exemptions were introduced for solar panels, micro wind turbines and heat pumps for domestic use.

The new regulations extend the facility to renewable energy technologies for use across industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors.

Irish Times

€40m plan to develop island port

The biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken on an Irish island was launched at the weekend.

At a cost of €40m, the redevelopment of the port on Inis Mor -- the largest of the three Aran Islands -- is also the biggest single project ever funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It is the equivalent of €50,000 per head of population on the island.

Inis Mor is the largest of the country's populated offshore islands, with 824 people living there. At the height of the tourist season, the population is multiplied several times over.

The re-development of the port, planned in conjunction with Galway County Council, involves the construction of a 550 metre breakwater; widening and upgrading of the pier; dredging works to create a deep anchor bed; new cargo facilities; a new lifeboat station, a walkway and parking facilities.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon O Cuiv turned the first sod on the project.

Brian McDonald
Irish Independent

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Revenue to demand €50 million from property developers

The Revenue Commissioners will demand about €50 million in back taxes from property developers after a landmark court ruling that a Vat avoidance scheme designed by accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche was ‘‘an abusive practice’’.

In a sternly-worded judgment, High Court judge Peter Charleton rejected a claim by a building partnership that it was not liable for Vat on the sale of 15 holiday homes in Baltimore, Co Cork.

Edward Cussens, John Jennings and Vincent Kingston had sought to reduce their Vat liability on the sale of €3 million-worth of holiday homes, by signing a lease for 20 years and one month with a related company, Shamrock Estates, which then leased the property back to the partners.

However, the High Court held that the lease was ineffective because there was no prior written consent by ACC Bank, the mortgage provider. The court also ruled that the ‘‘lease and leaseback had no commercial reality and constituted an abusive practice within the doctrines identified by the European Court of Justice’’.

The Revenue is understood to be pleased with the ruling, which effectively gives it a new legal weapon to combat elaborate tax avoidance schemes. Industry sources estimated the Revenue could reap as much as €50 million in back taxes and suggested some leading property developers could be affected.

The decision enshrines in Irish law an earlier decision by the ECJ which ruled that transactions carried out for the sole purpose of obtaining an artificial tax advantage were an abuse of the tax system. The 2006 ECJ ruling related to a tax avoidance scheme by the Halifax Bank in Britain and others.

The ruling is a blow to Deloitte &Touche, which is believed to have set up similar schemes for other clients. Many of them will now face Vat demands from the Revenue Commissioners unless the decision is successfully appealed.

Kingston, one of the members of the partnership, said it was likely the partners would appeal to the Supreme Court, adding that they had 21 days from the June 11 High Court decision to decide whether to appeal. He confirmed that his partnership had been advised by Deloitte & Touche. At the time of writing, Deloitte & Touche had not responded to a request for comment.

Dermot O’Brien, a Vat specialist and former president of the Irish Taxation Institute, said this weekend that the ruling was of huge interest. ‘‘It is one of the most significant Irish Vat judgments,” he told The Sunday Business Post.

Sunday Business Post

Council abandons Dartmouth Sq plans

Dublin City Council has abandoned plans to buy Dartmouth Square from Athlone businessman Noel O'Gara.

The council initiated a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the park in February 2006, to bring it into public ownership.However, the council has since been advised that continuing with the CPO could leave it open to a "substantial" award.

"We have been advised that if we proceed with the completion of the compulsory purchase process to arbitration stage we would expose the City Council to the possibility of a substantial and financially prohibitive award," it said in a statement. "Therefore, it is with regret that the City Council announces that it does not intend to proceed with the compulsory purchase order to acquire the park as originally planned."

The council has also been engaged in negotiations with Mr O'Gara, without agreement. However, in an effort to protect Dartmouth Square as a park, the council has placed a Tree Preservation Order on the park, and it has also been included as part of Dartmouth Square's Area of Architectural Conservation designation.

The council said it remains open to further negotiations with Mr O'Gara.

Unlicensed dump is not polluting reservoir, says Wicklow County Council

WICKLOW COUNTY Council has said it has no reason to believe an unlicensed dump at Russborough on the edge of Blessington Lake is polluting the reservoir.

The council recently took advantage of a dry spell to dig trial holes on the dump, which is frequently submerged due to wet weather.

According to the council, part of the dump is about 25 years old and a Northern Ireland-based contracting firm secured planning permission to use it for construction and demolition waste in the 1990s.

The firm failed, however, to secure an Environmental Protection Agency licence when that became a requirement, and closed the dump more then 10 years ago.

The council subsequently served a Section 55 notice on the firm, requiring it to take steps to protect the area.

It has subsequently been on a list of almost 100 suspect sites that the council drew up in recent years, following revelations of widespread dumping in west Wicklow.

A spokesman for the council said visual inspections at Russborough indicated the waste was from construction and demolition, including builder’s rubble, wood and clay.

Dublin City Council, which owns the reservoir, said it continually tested the water and had no reports of contamination.

The results of the testing are due in the coming weeks, according to the council.

Irish Times

Council to scale back plans for Mountjoy site

DUBLIN CITY Council is proposing to scale back its plans for the Mountjoy Prison site, following a submission from site owners the Office of Public Works (OPW) that the range of community facilities was too ambitious.

The council had initially hoped to see two schools, a library, an arts theatre, a museum and a hall for a local scout troop developed when the current prisons are decommissioned.

But in its submission on the council’s Phibsboro Area Plan – which incorporates the Mountjoy site – the OPW claimed the number of community facilities would represent a serious inequality in the grouping of facilities in the Phibsboro area.

The OPW queried the need for the scout hall and new schools and expressed concern for the operation, management and viability of the flagship arts space. The State agency also questioned a proposed public plaza which it said was too close to a busy road, and submitted that a cap on the height of buildings at existing levels be removed.

The OPW said it wanted buildings in the order of six to 12 storeys to be allowed.

Council planners have now amended their recommendations for the prison site, accepting there may not be such a need for schools in the area. But they have insisted that current building heights are appropriate, and confirmed the objective of a plaza.

Dublin city councillors will have an opportunity to vote on the submissions in July.

However, criticism of the OPW submission has already come from former councillor Senator Pascal Donohoe, who said the city council “must hold firm” and ensure that appropriate design, community facilities, and “respect for the local area are contained in the plan for the Mountjoy site and the entire Phibsboro area”.

Irish Times

Council flushed with success as 'loo with a view' sells for €400k

A DERELICT “loo with a view” at the seaside resort of Lahinch yesterday scooped €400,000 for Clare County Council at a public auction in Ennis.

There was no shortage of bidders on the property known locally as the “old toilets” at the auction in the Old Ground Hotel.

John Galvin of Ennis-based construction firm Galvin Construction Ltd bought the site “with unrivalled and unparalleled sea views” after his nearest bidder declined to go over the €400,000 mark.

Cllr Martin Conway (FG), who represents the area, said last night that the price realised for the site was “quite incredible”.

He said: “I’m aghast at the price.

“It is startling and shows that prices in Lahinch are immune from any economic downturn.”

With 23 metres of “sea frontage”, auctioneer David Costelloe said “the development potential of this site is very obvious”.

Before bidding began, Mr Galvin – who owns an adjoining property on Lahinch prom – raised concerns over the impact the development of the “old toilets” site could have on his own property.

“According to planning, you can’t block a person’s view or light. I just want it noted.”

Mr Costelloe said that was a matter to be dealt with through planning.

The site could suit a mixed commercial development or residential scheme. Speaking after purchasing the site, Mr Galvin said he has not yet decided upon what plans he has for the site.

Asked was he happy with the price paid, Mr Galvin said: “I would be happy if I got it for cheaper, but that’s the way it goes.”

Director of the environment for the council, Ger Dollard, said that the local authority is “pleased with the price obtained”.

The money from the sale is to be directed towards the provision of facilities for surfers at Lahinch and the upgrading of the prom area.

Mr Dollard saying that the works should be well advanced for the 2009 season.

Cllr Conway said that it was now important that the upgrading of Lahinch prom “proceed without delay”.

Irish Times

Cowen picks economist as key policy adviser

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has appointed a high-profile environmental economist with a strong track record in environmental issues, and an outspoken critic of decentralisation, as his special policy adviser.

The appointment of Dr Peter Clinch (37), the Jean Monnet Professor of European Environmental Policy at UCD since 2003, signals a shift of policy direction by the new Taoiseach compared to his predecessor Bertie Ahern. One source said that the arrival of a non-orthodox economist will result in "new thinking" in Government policymaking.

It is expected that Dr Clinch's main task will be to advise policy initiatives that will help the Government meet climate change targets while maintaining a secure economy.

Dr Clinch told The Irish Times last night that one of the Government's biggest challenges will be meeting the Kyoto Protocol commitments and the EU's target of a 20 per cent cut in the State's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

He added that he was impressed by Mr Cowen's commitments in this regard and his clear interest in these policy areas. He also said Mr Cowen was very committed to making decisions based on sound evidence and research.

"If you read the Taoiseach's acceptance speech, it concerns itself with the relationship between the economy and the environment . . . The market economy does not have to be the enemy of the environment," said Dr Clinch.

When the EU announced in January that Ireland would need to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, the Government said it raised serious economic and social issues for the State. The targets are considered demanding and the challenge facing Mr Cowen is to find the appropriate balance of achieving them without causing damage to the economy.

Dr Clinch said he had little hesitation in taking up the position. "It was very clear that he wanted somebody who uses a strong technical basis for advice . . . It was not something that I could easily turn down."

Dr Clinch holds a second professorship in planning at UCD and is a former employee of the World Bank. He has been a consistent critic of the Government's decentralisation policy. In several articles, he has argued that it is flawed, will do little for regional balance, and could lead to reduced economic growth.

A strong advocate of evidence-based policymaking, he has been scathing in the past of what he has described as "back of the envelope opportunistic policymaking".

He has also written in favour of carbon taxes and against what he referred to as the "flimsy detail" contained in Transport 21. On the question of carbon taxes, he says there are misconceptions about the priorities of environmental economists. "An environmental economist is just as interested in the economy as in the environment," he argued.

"It's about finding the appropriate balance. I am just as likely to be critical of an environmentalist as I am of those who have no interest in the environment."

Irish Times

Friday, 20 June 2008

Clare councillors allow one-off building

Clare county councillors have forced through planning permission for Ennis businessman Gerry Danagher to build a home, a one-off house, at Ballycullinan, Corofin in the Burren, against the advice of planners.

It is the first time since 1983 that councillors have invoked special powers in the planning area by tabling a contentious section 140 motion directing county manager Alec Fleming to grant permission.

It is also the first time that they have overturned the council's own "locals only" rule, introduced in 1999, to control urban-generated housing in rural areas.

Irish Times

Objectors fear for Sligo mountain

CONCERN was expressed that the profile of a mountain "will be destroyed for all time" by quarrying operations.

The claim was made in a sub-mission on a planning application by Hillstreet Quarries Ltd for the continued operation of an existing quarry near Geevagh.

Despite the environmental concerns and objections from local residents, Sligo County Council granted planning permission to the company to continue to operate within an overall site of 287 hectares at Glen, Knockroe, Derrysallagh and Rover townlands near Geevagh.

The planning application drew a total of 10 submissions. The Kilronan Mountain Action Group talked in their submission of the impact of the quarrying operations on the local population because of the amount of heavy traffic on inadequate roads and blasting. They felt that blasting should be monitored independently because in the past blasting had caused vibrations in nearby houses and considerable alarm to the occupants.

Sligo Weekender

D8 scheme gets green light

DUBLIN CITY Council has granted the OCBM partnership planning permission for a seven-storey mixed-use development on Old Kilmainham Road, Dublin 8 despite receiving 12 objections.

The development at 40 Old Kilmainham Road will involve the demolition of a garage and car showroom and the construction of a 5,250sq m (56,510sq ft) development with over 3,000sq m (32,292sq ft) of enterprise space, five live/work units, 18 apartments and basement parking for 40 cars.

The building separates into two blocks above first floor level with a large planted courtyard between at second floor level.

The council's decision will come as a blow to the Kilmainham residents who objected to the scheme saying it is adjoining a Conservation Area and citing overshadowing and loss of privacy of nearby homes as a reason to refuse planning permission.

Irish Times

Council rejects scheme of 76 apartments for Killiney site

THE TORC Group has been refused planning permission by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to demolish Culgrenagh House, Rochestown Avenue, Killiney in Co Dublin and build 76 apartments.

Torc Group – which is owned by Billy Murphy, John Pugh and Michael Doran – was looking for planning permission to build an apartment building rising from two storeys to a setback fourth storey level, as well as a crèche.

The development would have included the reconfiguration of the roundabout at the intersection of Rochestown Avenue, Church Road, Avondale Road and Sallyglen Road.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council refused permission because the drainage proposals submitted “are contrary to the proper and sustainable drainage of the area”, in that they drain this site “against the steep fall of the land via Church Road, thereby incurring grossly excessive depths of sewer with future attendant health and safety dangers to maintenance operatives, and a possible structural stability threat to Church Road”.

It also has “serious concerns” about the south-west elevation of a rear protruding element of the building which has a blank wall at second, third and fourth floor levels, and “would be visually over dominant and would constitute a visually overbearing feature when viewed from both within the proposed development site and when viewed from adjacent property”.

It would also “fail to exploit the opportunity to afford apartments at this location good south-westerly aspects”.

Irish Times

CIF's HQ plans rejected by council

THE CONSTRUCTION Industry Federation's (CIF) plan for its headquarters on Dublin's Grand Canal has been refused planning permission by Dublin City Council because it would devalue adjoining property.

Refusing planning permission for the mixed-use scheme, planners at the council said the development "would seriously injure the residential amenities and depreciate the value" of houses on Athlumney Villas by way of overshadowing.

Council planners also objected to the height, scale and mass of the proposed CIF development saying it would be "visually obtrusive and out of character" with the area.

The CIF and Construction Workers Pension Scheme (CWPS) were seeking permission to revamp the 1970s headquarters, Canal House on Canal Road in Dublin 6.

The proposed scheme, designed by architects Burke Kennedy Doyle, involved the demolition of an office block on the site along with a row of five derelict cottages, Dunville Terrace, to make way for a seven-storey office building.

Five apartments were planned for the top floor of this new office block and a further 11 apartments were planned for two office blocks which were to be renovated and raised by one and two storeys.

Among the 21 objectors to the scheme were An Taisce, Senator Deirdre de Búrca and a number of residents groups.

Height, overlooking, light pollution and overdevelopment were the main issues identified by the objectors.

David Quinn, for residents from neighbouring Ontario Terrace and Mount Pleasant Parade, says the scheme would become one of south Dublin's "iconic cock-ups".

Irish Times

U2 Tower to be ready by 2011?

WITH A NUMBER of high-profile public private partnership (PPP) housing regeneration schemes biting the dust of late, tongues have been wagging about the viability of the ambitious U2 Tower in Dublin's south docklands.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority's (DDDA) annual report published yesterday sets 2011 as the completion date for the tower. However, negotiations between the DDDA and development firm Geranger have been on the long-winded side, to put it mildly.

Talks between the two parties began last October and Geranger - a consortium consisting of Seán Mulryans Ballymore Homes, developer Paddy McKillen and U2 band and management members - are still being referred to as "provisional preferred bidder" by the DDDA.

Paul Maloney, chief executive of the DDDA, however, has the end of July as D Day.

The "state of play" (meaning whether the provisional preferred bidder has moved to preferred bidder) will be announced then, according to Maloney. Not a man to be pinned down, Maloney says that "financial, legal and technical" issues were still being hammered out by the two parties.

No doubt there is much to discuss. The tower, due to rise to well over 120 metres, will be the tallest building built in Dublin and by far the most ambitious PPP scheme.

And that's not to mention the beleaguered residential market and question marks over the feasibility of PPP schemes.

"Naturally we are being exceptionally careful," says Maloney.

Starchitects Foster + Partners' plans for the €200 million scheme include a hotel, shops and residential accommodation - 20 per cent of which will be social and affordable.

Referring to the stalled residential market as one of the "hurdles" the authority has to overcome, Maloney insists that it is "committed to ensuring the U2 Tower is built and has taken very significant steps to deliver it".

Fingers crossed it won't be a bad case of vertigo!

Irish Times

Dublin docklands authority sees surplus cut by 91%

FEWER SALES of development assets and higher regeneration costs resulted in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority's surplus being slashed by 91 per cent to €3.7 million in 2007.

Income from the sale of development assets declined to €30.3 million from €84.8 million in 2006, while expenditure on regeneration projects in the area more than doubled to €15.6 million during the year, according to the authority's annual report, published yesterday.

Commenting on the economic slowdown, chief executive Paul Maloney conceded that the future development of the area would be affected by the economic slowdown but added that he was confident the long-term regeneration would happen. "Yes we are concerned for the long term but we look forward to a turnaround," he said.

The authority is charged with overseeing the regeneration of Dublin's dockland area, which extends from the IFSC on the north quays to Poolbeg, south of the Liffey.

The DDDA has four main development assets, Grand Canal Harbour, the CHQ building, land in the Poolbeg peninsula and the former Readymix site.

CHQ in the IFSC opened to retailers last November following a €40 million restoration and is anchored by furniture retailer Meadows Byrne. The centre has suffered from the fall-off in consumer buying this year, Mr Maloney said.

"The first few months of this year have been very difficult," he said. "Retail sales across the board have been difficult." Mr Maloney said he was satisfied with the performance of CHQ to date, especially as its marketing campaign had yet to be launched.

"It can take up to two years for a shopping centre to establish itself, just look at the likes of Dundrum," he told The Irish Times. "We're very satisfied with how it is performing in the current market."

Mr Maloney said 70 per cent of the ground floor at CHQ has been let and he expects it to be fully occupied by the year's end. The centre is operating debt free.

In a bid to stimulate interest from retailers, many shops have received significant discounts on their rents and some are even operating rent free.

On construction activity, Mr Maloney said very few residential planning applications were currently being lodged due to the tougher economic backdrop.

The authority owns 26 per cent of the former Irish Glass site in Ringsend in a joint venture with builder Bernard McNamara and financier Derek Quinlan.

It spent €36 million in cash on this transaction last year. Mr Maloney said remediation works at the site have started and this would cost it about €9 million.

He said the authority and its joint venture partners were consulting with local interest groups about the redevelopment of the Ringsend site. "It's an investment right now but we're confident of making it work," he said.

The authority's staff numbers rose last year from 35 to 46, with its payroll costs increasing to €3.9 million from €3.2 million in 2006.

Its investment properties were revalued in 2007, resulting in a gain of €24 million. The authority had a net pension liability of €7.3 million at the end of 2007, up from €6.7 million a year earlier.

Irish Times

Town of Drogheda to be split by proposed DTA

THE TOWN of Drogheda on the border of Meath and Louth is to be split by the proposed Dublin Transport Authority (DTA), with only land south of the Boyne being part of the new body's remit, it has emerged.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey yesterday acknowledged the problem, but said the new body was a transport authority for the Greater Dublin Area, which included Meath, but not Louth.

Opposition politicians claimed the move means a proposed increase of 15,000 people to the north of Drogheda town, in south Co Louth, will not be covered by the new authority. Nor would recent developments in north Drogheda, or suggested developments along the Dublin-Belfast Corridor in Co Louth.

Speaking at an Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting yesterday Opposition spokesmen Fergus O'Dowd (FG) and Tommy Broughan (Lab) insisted the land use and transportation aspects of the new Bill, under which the DTA would have oversight of local authority development plans, would operate only up as far as the Boyne, but would be silent on developments beyond that point.

Mr O'Dowd said the move would in particular have serious implications for a future extension of the Dart to Drogheda. On the area being incorporated at a later date he told the Minister: "We are making legislation now, you are the executive authority".

Mr Broughan said Dublin Institute of Technology population projections saw the addition of about one million people on the Dublin-Belfast Corridor and history had shown that planning authorities would go out of their way to avoid imposing a public transport obligation on developers.

Mr Dempsey said he had no objection to Louth County Council seeking permission from the Minister for the Environment to leave the Border, Midlands and Western Region, and join the Greater Dublin Area, which would bring them into the remit of the new transport authority. But he refused amendments to the DTA Bill to include Co Louth when the authority is set up later this year.

Mr Dempsey said the new transport authority would have power to regulate all public transport which began in the Greater Dublin Area and ended outside it, or vice versa, which would go some way towards addressing the problem.

Irish Times

Citywest extension of Luas Red line approved by Bord Pleanála

THE CITYWEST/Saggart extension of the Luas Red line in west Dublin is expected to open to the public in 2011, following approval of the project by An Bord Pleanála yesterday.

In granting a railway order for the 4.2-kilometre spur from the existing Luas Red Line, An Bord Pleanála has given the green light to the project which was first announced as part of Transport 21 in 2005. At that time, the completion date was put at 2008.

The permission is however, subject to a further two-month delay to allow for legal challenges. Failing a challenge, the Railway Procurement Agency expects to begin construction in late August or early September. The line is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, but this is to be followed by a period of testing before passenger services start in 2011.

The new route is to have five stops at Fettercairn, Cheeverstown, Citywest Campus, Fortunestown and Saggart. It will link people and business in Dublin city centre with the Citywest Business Campus. The line will also connect significant existing and planned residential developments along with the Citywest Hotel.

The agency yesterday refused to say how much the extension would cost, but revealed that land and infrastructure contributions have been made by businessman Jim Mansfield, the Davey Hickey property group and Harcourt Developments. Other sources indicated the infrastructure contribution from the private backers was in the order €40 million.

Frank Allen, chief executive of the rail agency, welcomed the private sector participation yesterday. Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said that the line was welcome news for commuters and would add five million passenger journeys per year to the Luas network.

Irish Times

Judge finds mast to be exempt

A High Court judge has overturned a decision of An Bord Pleanála that a partly built telecommunications mast near Ballymote railway station in Co Sligo, which was designated a protected structure after the works began, now requires planning permission. Mr Justice Frank Clarke found the structure beside Ballymote station was exempted development when work began on it in 2004 and that it continued to be so after the station was added to a list of protected structures.

Irish Times

Ballymun regeneration scheme success

TEN YEARS after ambitious plans to regenerate one of the country's most neglected urban blackspots were announced, the signs of progress are everywhere in Ballymun, Dublin.

Some are obvious: there is the rejuvenated main street with its glitzy steel and glass civic centre, swimming pool and health clinic.

Over on the newly-built plaza there is the farmers' market, stocked with organic blueberries, home-baked ciabatta and scented candles.

Where many of the blocks of drab flats used to be are newly-built two- or three-storey homes with playgrounds, neat gardens and manicured parklands. And then there are the less obvious signs, say locals, such as the rejuvenated sense of community pride, and a surge of interest in getting involved in local activities.

Some residents in older houses dating back to the 1970s are painting grey homes in brighter colours and tidying up unloved gardens. Others are rediscovering a sense of community which they have not experienced since moving here more than 30 years ago. "The patience of residents over the last decade is now being rewarded," says Ciarán Murray, managing director of Ballymun Regeneration. "Having lived in the middle of a virtual construction site, most can now enjoy new homes, parks and leisure facilities, as well as the main street with its new neighbourhood shops."

Almost 80 per cent of new homes are in place, while 24 of the 36 blocks of flats have been demolished. They estimate that in four years' time all the old flats will be gone and a total of 2,400 new homes will be occupied.

It has not all gone according to plan, though. The entire plan was supposed to have been completed last year, but the cost has ballooned to double its original estimate of €442 million and will take six years longer than planned.

The Comptroller and Auditor General, in a special report on the project, said some of the delays could have been lessened by better planning and risk management. However, Mr Murray says the bulk of extra cost has been due to inflation in the building sector, while the challenge of trying to regenerate an entire area while keeping the existing community in their old homes has posed unforeseen logistical problems. "Other developments on a par with this in the UK have taken 30 years to establish," he says. "This is a unique approach and it's working.

"The quality of the redevelopment here is something which the entire country can take great pride in."

But regeneration is more than just new houses. Social justice campaigners such as Fr Peter McVerry - who lives in the area - point out that drug and alcohol abuse mean that major social problems persist in the form of violence, crime and anti-social behaviour. The social mix in the neighbourhood is also a daunting challenge.

About 80 per cent of housing here is social or local authority housing, while the remainder is private. Officials hope they can reverse this figure over the coming years.

Ballymun Regeneration says the next phase of its plan is to focus on social and economic issues and to move the areas from a cycle of dependency to becoming a self-sustaining community in its own right.

Already new shops are arriving to the area and two hotels are operating successfully. Even bigger change is around the corner with the arrival of Ikea, just down the road - due to open next February and the new metro.

"They will be twin catalysts for developing further enterprise and investment," says Ronan King, Ballymun Regeneration's chairman. "In the past decade around 1,300 jobs have been created here, with over 6,000 potential jobs expected when the project is completed."

Irish Times