Thursday, 30 October 2008

Block 1, Lwr Clanwilliam Court to be demolished

ABBEYROCK DEVELOPMENT has got permission from An Bord Pleanála to demolish Block 1, Lwr Clanwilliam Court, Lwr Mount St, D2 and replace it with a six-storey office building. The developer wanted to build a seven-storey block but the board reduced this by one floor.

Seosamh and Colm Cahill appealed permission granted by the council on the grounds it would overshadow property in the vicinity and saying the board can prevent the proliferation of "obtrusive glass structures".

The board also said that the upper most floor must be set back a further three metres from the building line.

The Irish Times

Bord rejects a scheme at Grand Parade and St Patrick's Street in Cork

AN ATTEMPT by PadLake Ltd to build a scheme at Grand Parade and St Patrick's Street in Cork has been rejected by the appeals board as it would "detrimentally" interfere with the historic character of the streets.

Headed by Joe O'Donovan, Padlake proposed a five-storey scheme with 8,999sq m (96,864sq ft) of shops and offices of 3,276sq m (35,263sq ft) which involved demolishing the Capital Cinema on Grand Parade, 21-23 Grand Parade, 55-57 St Patrick's Street and the Vineyard Bar on Market Lane.

Irish Times

Planning and development

An Bord Pleanála


Location: Clonbur, off the junction of Torquay Road and Westminster Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18. Proposed development: demolish house for 11 apartments and retail. Applicant: Michael McNamara. Appellant(s): Joseph McCarthy, Foxrock Area Development Ltd, Susan Jenkins and Andrew Moore.

Location: Promenade Road, Parish of St Thomas, Dublin Port, Dublin 3. Proposed development: new over ground, vertical, steel petroleum product storage tank within newly constructed bund in yard one and site works. Applicant: Tedcastle Oil Products. Appellant(s): Clontarf Residents Association.

Location: 70 Grafton Street and 1 2 Harry Street, Dublin 2. Proposed development: change of use to 280sq m (3,014sq ft) retail unit. Applicant: Ickendel Ltd. Appellant(s): Irish Life and Permanent PLC.

Location: former CIÉ lands at Carnlough Road, Cabra, Dublin 7. Proposed development: alterations to previous permission (Reg. Ref: 3884/06) and An Bord Pleanála PL29N.221512. Applicant: Niall Molley Ailesbury Co-ownership. Appellant(s): Cabra Hills Committee.

Location: Ahgfarrell Townlands, Brittas, Co Dublin. Proposed development: continuance of use of quarry, ancillary facilities, extension of the quarry extraction area by 4.2 hectares to give a total extraction area of 15.5 hectares within site of 28.1 hectares. Applicant: Shillelagh Quarries Ltd. Appellant(s): Dublin Mountain Conservation and Environmental Group, Shillelagh Quarries Ltd.

Location: Captains Hill, Leixlip, Co Kildare. Proposed development: demolish crèche for 21 houses and crèche. Applicant: James Hargraves. Appellant(s): Emmet Stagg, Avondale Residents Association.

Location: Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Dundalk, Co Louth. Proposed development: 302 staff car-parking spaces, footpaths, cycle lanes, lighting, CCTV cameras, fencing and landscaping. Applicant: Dundalk Institute of Technology. Appellant(s): An Taisce.

Location: The Millhouse, Main Street, Clonee, Co Meath. Proposed development: 42 apartments, retail units, offices and works. Applicant: CPF Properties Ltd. Appellant(s): Alan and Brenda Molloy, Seamus Aidan Fleming.


Location: lands at Balbriggan, Co Dublin. Proposed development: regional/district centre of 23,510sq m (253,059sq ft), 952 car-parking spaces and site works. Applicant: Parkway Partnership (with revised conditions).

Location: Block 1, Clanwilliam Court, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. Proposed development: demolish building for a seven-storey office building. Applicant: Abbeyrock Developments Ltd (with revised conditions).


Location: Glen Erin, the Burrow, Portrane, Co Dublin. Proposed development: demolish house for 15 houses and site works. Applicant: Tony and Doreen Ritchie.

Location: Knocks and Johnstown, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. Proposed development: 160 houses and site works. Applicant: Ray Stokes.

Location: Dromin Road, Dromgoolestown, Castlebellingham, Co Louth. Proposed development: service station building, foot court, restaurants, eight retail units, 51-bed hotel, car-parking and site works. Applicant: Patrick and Noel Martin and Damien Donegan.

Dublin City Council


Location: Jervis Lane Upper (rear of 56 57 Capel Street), Dublin 1. Proposed development: demolish structures for a five-storey building with two office units and six apartments (four one-beds and two two-bed duplex units). Provision of 12 cycle spaces and site works. Applicant: Phillip Conlon.

Location: 3, 4, 5 6 Parnell Street and Jervis Lane Upper, Dublin 1 (protected structure). Proposed development: extension and alteration of structures at 3 Parnell Street and the demolition of 4, 5 and 6 Parnell Street. Retention and part restoration of the façade at 3, 4 and 5 Parnell Street. Six-storey building with three retail units and 13 apartments (eight one-beds, three two-beds, one two-bed duplex and one three-bed duplex); provision of 15 cycle spaces, landscaping and site works. Applicant: Philip Conlon.

Location: 44a 43a Belvedere Place, part rear return and lands to rear of 43 Belvedere Place and rear of 16 Mountjoy Square North, Dublin 1 (protected structure). Proposed development: demolish part rear return of 43 Belvedere Place (protected structure) at first, second and third floor levels and demolish 44a Belvedere Place, a derelict commercial unit, and 43a Belvedere Place, a single storey garage. New end-terrace five-storey 21-bed residential hostel with site works. Applicant: Olwen OCallaghan.


Location: site designated as 5B Shangan Avenue, bounded by Shangan Green to the north, Shangan Gardens to the east, Whitcare Park and residential estate to the south, and 1-59 Shangan Avenue, Ballymun, Dublin 9. Proposed development: 57 residential units from one to three storeys and consisting of 25 apartments, one duplex unit and 31 terraced houses. Provision of 85 car-parking spaces at surface level; new rear access gates and wall to 46 Shangan Gardens, landscaping and site works. Applicant: Ballymun Regeneration Ltd.

Location: 19 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, Dublin 3. Proposed development: demolish house for a five-storey residential scheme with two one-beds, seven two-beds and one three-bed (10 apartments) with 16 car-parking spaces, landscaping and site works. Applicant: Jerry Beades.



Location: on a site of 0.47 hectares at Hansfield, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, located within zone two of the Hansfield Strategic Development Scheme Plan 2006 bounded on the north and east by the Ongar Road and roundabout on the south and west by a previously permitted development known as Hansfield Wood. Proposed development: 47 one, two and three-bed apartments in three four, five and seven-storey blocks with site development works, car-parking and landscaping. Applicant: Menolly Homes.

Location: on a site of 4.97 hectares at Hansfield, Clonsilla, Dublin 15. Proposed development: residential scheme of 103 dwellings consisting of 26 two-storey three-bed duplex units with 13 two-bed apartments on second level; two three and four-bed duplex units with one three-bed apartment on second level; 20 three-bed two-storey townhouses in four blocks; nine two and three-bed duplex units and apartments in one three-storey block; three two-bed apartments and one three-storey block and 29 two-bed apartments in one three-storey block with penthouses setback at fourth storey level. Car-parking, site works, public and private open spaces, and landscaping. Applicant: Menolly Homes.


Location: The Emerald, Donabate, Co Dublin. Proposed development: demolish two-storey shop and living accommodation for a three-storey mixed-use scheme with a total of 14 units. The development will include restaurant and function room, three retail units and post office/convenience store at ground floor level with eight office/commercial units and two kitchenette areas at first floor and a recessed penthouse including two two-bed apartments. Applicant: Gary Fay and Linda McGloughlan.

South Dublin


Location: Ashleaf Shopping Centre, Crumlin Cross, Crumlin, Dublin 12. Proposed development: demolish 3,559sq m (38,309sq ft), refurbish 2,960sq m (31,861sq ft), continued use of 12,394sq m (133,408sq ft), reorganise existing floorspace and new construction resulting in total floor space of 28,084sq m (302,293sq ft), excluding car-parking at basement level of 14,482sq m (155,883sq ft). Increase retail space from 7,857sq m (84,572sq ft) to 10,926sq m (117,606sq ft). Increase office use from 2,367sq m (25,478sq ft) to 2,653sq m (28,557sq ft). Increase medical centre from 247sq m (2,659sq ft) to 323sq m (3,477sq ft). Decrease non-retail services from 714sq m (7,685sq ft) to 238sq m (2,562sq ft). Decrease public bars from 3,209sq m (34,541sq ft) to 214sq m (2,303sq ft). Provision of an 80-bed aparthotel, 40 residential units (four one-beds, 33 two-beds and three three-beds) and increase car-parking by 11 spaces to 557 spaces. The scheme will be arranged over five levels. Applicant: Gary Smith.

The Irish Times

Locals appeal Michael McNamara's plans for mixed-use scheme in Foxrock

FOXROCK AREA Development Limited is appealing planning permission to redevelop Clonbur, a property owned by developer Michael McNamara in Foxrock, Dublin 18 into an apartment complex.

Located at the junction of Torquay Road and Westminster Road, McNamara is proposing knocking the house to make way for 11 apartments, an office, shop and 33 car-parking spaces. The proposal attracted considerable local opposition from residents of the leafy suburb.

Three parties have appealed the planning permission to An Bord Pleanála. Foxrock Area Development Ltd (FADL) says the development is premature pending the adoption of an urban design framework for Foxrock village and says the development is located on one junction of a crossroads that suffers from serious traffic congestion.

The group says it is concerned that the development has the potential to have a detrimental impact on the amenities and character of Foxrock because it has been assessed in the absence of an agreed urban design framework plan.

“It is considered that granting planning permission for any additional development which will put additional pressure on parking in the village, while not exploring the potential of important sites such as Clonbur to provide additional parking as a form of planning gain to the village, would be premature and short sighted,” says the appeal.

While the group says it’s not opposed in principle to the development and agrees “that in its architectural treatment and scale, it is a distinct improvement on previous proposals”, they say the proposal “is a commercial development geared to achieve the maximum return for its promoter, which gives nothing back to the local community”.

The Irish Times

Council rejects Hamleys signs in Dundrum

OPENED LAST week, Hamleys toy shop in Dundrum Town Centre – a branch of the famous London toy shop – has already run into problems with the local authority.

It was refused planning permission by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to display six Hamleys signs on three elevations because they would be “visually unappealing”.

The first standalone Hamleys outside Regent Street, it was looking to erect six signs – four illuminated ones on the north-east and north-west elevations.

These would have been brushed stainless steel with Hamleys written in red and surrounded by gold stars.

On the south-west elevation they were looking for two non-illuminated signs, one with the Hamleys name on it and the other reading “Hamleys Toy Man”.

However, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council criticised the design, number and prominent location of the proposed signage, and said that in the absence of an overall strategy for signage in Dundrum Town Centre the proposal would be “inconsistent with existing signage within the Dundrum Town Centre” and would “detract from the visual amenities of the area and would set a poor precedent in the area”.

The Irish Times

11-storey apartment scheme on hold as petrol station reopens

IT’S A SIGN of the times: a former petrol station on the Rock Road/Merrion Road, Dublin 4, which was earmarked for redevelopment into a €60 million 11-storey residential development, is due to open next week as . . . a petrol station.

In March, An Bord Pleanála approved the residential development on the site of the former Shell petrol station beside the Tara Towers hotel. Developer O’Mahony Finnerty secured permission to build 42 apartments on the site which fronts the Merrion/Rock roads and straddles the border of two local authorities, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

But the hoarding around the site has been taken down and Texaco, the new leaseholder, has been busy erecting signage, installing pumps and fitting out a shop.

Developer Fergal O’Mahony says there is “no truth whatsoever” to the rumour that Texaco has taken a five-year lease on the site saying his company is simply deferring the residential development for a year.

“We have good planning on it for 11 storeys and we might never achieve planning like that on it again.”

While he says the current downturn in the economy is a factor in their decision to wait until next year to start the development, he says another reason is that “we have so much other work”.

O’Mahony Finnerty bought the former Shell petrol station for €16 million last year.

The Irish Times

Mahon tribunal ends 11 years of hearings

THE CHAIRMAN of the Mahon tribunal, Judge Alan Mahon, thanked witnesses, their legal representatives, tribunal staff, members of the public who attended its hearings, and the journalists who regularly covered its proceedings, at the outset of what was effectively the tribunal's final day of hearing evidence yesterday.

The tribunal has held 916 days of public hearings into allegations of planning corruption over the past 11 years. It is expected to cost the exchequer in excess of €300 million when third-party legal costs are submitted following the publication of its final report some time next year.

Only two members of the public attended yesterday's sitting, which was held so certain evidence could be read into the public record.

There is a chance a further, short hearing may be heard, Judge Mahon said.

Judge Mahon, who took over as chairman of the tribunal from its original chairman, Mr Justice Feargus Flood, said the tribunal had since 2002 heard evidence from more than 400 witnesses, producing more than 60,000 pages of transcripted evidence.

He said more than 76,000 pages of documents had been circulated in briefs to interested parties.

The tribunal heard from Patricia Dillon SC, for the tribunal, that the son of the late Liam Lawlor, Niall Lawlor, had told the tribunal he would not be travelling from the US to give evidence. The tribunal also heard that the late Mr Lawlor's wife, Hazel Lawlor, would not be giving evidence as she was not in a position to do so, for medical reasons.

Pat Quinn SC, for the tribunal, read documentation associated with the late Mr Lawlor into the record. It included a statement from Mr Lawlor to the effect that he received £30,000 in political contributions from Declan Ganley's business, Ganley International, in 1996.

Mr Quinn also said the tribunal had been told that an invoice dated February 1997 from Mr Ganley's business at 128 Mount Street, London, was used by Mr Lawlor when providing documentation to cover for a £25,000 payment to him from the former lobbyist and Fianna Fáil election agent, Frank Dunlop.

The cheque for that amount and made out to Ganley International, was lodged by an associate of Mr Lawlor's, Patrick Murphy to an account in his name in Lucan, Dublin, and the proceeds given to Mr Lawlor over time.

Evidence taken on commission from the long-time associate of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Tim Collins, was read into the record by the tribunal registrar, Peter Kavanagh. Mr Collins's evidence was given in private, or on commission, for medical reasons. He attended Dublin Castle on October 9th, along with his counsel Hugh Mohan SC.

Mr Collins was questioned about his involvement in the purchase of land at Cloghran, Co Dublin, by John Butler, Tom Williams and Niall Kenny in 1989. The land was bought for £165,000 and Mr Collins said he was paid a finder's fee in 1996 of £29,613. Mr Collins said he used to drive around looking for property that might be of interest to clients.

"I drove into the yard and I asked the chap in the yard" if the land was up for sale, he said.

Mr Collins said he introduced lobbyist Frank Dunlop to the purchasers of the land during a chance meeting in the offices of the architect, Ambrose Kelly, in 1993. Told that Mr Dunlop had said he made it clear at the meeting that councillors would have to be paid if the land at Cloughran was to be rezoned, Mr Collins replied: "That's a lie."

He said Mr Dunlop's contribution was "public relations". The land was rezoned and sold at a substantial profit.

The tribunal adjourned and its public proceedings may now be complete.

The Irish Times

Judges set tall task by litany of allegations, cash trails and digouts

AFTER 16 modules, 11 years, 400 witnesses, and a likely total cost of close to €300 million, the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments sat yesterday for what is expected to be its last public hearing.

Only one person remains on the tribunal's witness list, civil servant Gerry Carroll who was due to be briefly cross-examined by former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond, whom he accused of being a bully.

The tribunal was set up in November 1997 to investigate allegations of planning corruption in Dublin.

Public hearings took place in Dublin Castle first before Mr Justice Flood and then, from late 2002, before chairman Judge Alan Mahon sitting with Judge Mary Faherty and Judge Gerald Keys.

Luckily for the public purse strings, not all witnesses sought legal representation. Of those who did, many have not yet claimed costs. So far, €8.9 million has been paid out for third-party legal expenses. The largest single payment, of €3.57 million, was made to lawyers for the late James Gogarty, the whistleblower whose allegations led to the setting up of the tribunal. Those against whom adverse findings were made have already had, and will in the future have, to pay their own legal bills.

The tribunal's own legal costs total €47.8 million, including €42.5 million to counsel and solicitors at the tribunal and the balance for costs in up to 30 cases in other courts. Des O'Neill SC earned €5.25 million, Patricia Dillon SC earned €4.6 million and Pat Quinn SC earned €3.8 million.

Administrative costs have so far amounted to almost €25 million. Judge Mahon has said he expects the total cost of the tribunal not to exceed €300 million.

Four interim reports were published; the first and fourth dealt with procedural matters, while the second and third, both by Justice Flood, made findings of corruption against Mr Redmond and former Fianna Fáil minister for communications Ray Burke.

These reports were clear, direct and netted €34.5 million in taxes for the Revenue.

The tribunal's current judges will have to sift through mountains of contradictory evidence, incredible allegations and meandering money trails.

They will look at evidence from Mr Redmond, who has denied allegations of corruption and who personally cross-examined some witnesses, including the late Liam Lawlor, who was as elusive as smoke.

They will have to consider allegations by Luton-based developer Tom Gilmartin against his former business partner Owen O'Callaghan and lobbyist Frank Dunlop. Mr Gilmartin, who had a seanchaí's love of a story, provided some of the most memorable anecdotes to emerge from the hearings.

He told the tribunal how he was driven from one pub to another in a pick-up truck in search of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He also said Mr O'Callaghan fell out of a broom cupboard while trying to eavesdrop on him.

He talked of payments to politicians including former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and was labelled a fantasist by Mr O'Callaghan. Yet, sometimes his allegations were corroborated by other sources, or were revealed to have at least a nugget of truth in them.

Mr Dunlop's "road to Damascus" in April 2000, when he agreed to co-operate and provided a list of politicians to whom he said he made corrupt payments, will also have to be assessed. He said he told all to the tribunal, yet some entries in his diaries were so mutilated even the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not decipher them.

And the destination of some of his cash has never been ascertained, although €64,000 of it was said to have bought a horse that was never named and died a few months later.

The judges have listened with patience to a long line of politicians who, once it had been established they received money from Mr Dunlop, said the sums were legitimate political donations. They've heard evidence of invisible envelopes at fundraising dinners, tribunal documents lost in the Dáil car park and a conspiracy that sent a councillor to London when he should have been at a planning vote.

And they have followed the money trail with Bertie Ahern and heard about cash in safes, a house in Drumcondra, digouts and fit-outs and money that came from bets on horses.

To say the three judges have their work cut out is an understatement.

The Irish Times

Hearing planned over incinerator

PLANS FOR an incinerator in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, which are opposed by South Dublin County Council, the National Roads Authority (NRA), local politicians and more than 200 residents, will be subject to a Bord Pleanála public hearing next month.

Protesters gathered outside the Green Isle Hotel in west Dublin yesterday where An Bord Pleanála held a preliminary hearing to establish how long the planning hearing was likely to last, given the large number of objectors.

A schedule for the hearing, which begins on November 12th, will be sent to all parties in the coming days. Initial indications suggest it is likely to last several weeks.

Energy Answers International, the US firm who plan to operate the incinerator, has applied directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission for the incinerator, using the "fast-track" planning process.

The Strategic Infrastructure Act, which came into force in January 2007, allows applications for major infrastructural developments to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála, bypassing the usual local authority planning process.

The proposed incinerator would burn 365,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, just over half the amount of waste that would be processed in the Poolbeg incinerator for which permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála earlier this year to burn 600,000 tonnes annually.

Energy Answers International said that the plant could provide enough electricity to power 43,000 households. It would recover about 11,500 tonnes of metals and would produce more than 23,000 tonnes of an aggregate material for use in the manufacture of concrete products.

The incinerator would have been extremely unlikely to have secured permission from South Dublin County Council as the local authority has asked An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission.

The council has told the board that the incinerator is not required for the Dublin region and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

The NRA in its submission says the incinerator should be refused as the applicants had failed to demonstrate how the additional traffic generated could be accommodated on the existing road network.

Energy Answers International had also failed to address a number of safety issues, the NRA says, including the possibility of waste lorries leaving the facility "losing control" and colliding with traffic on the N7.

Liam McDermott of Rathcoole Against Incinerator Dioxins (Raid), the group which held yesterday's protest, said the incinerator would have a hugely negative impact on the environment and on the lives of the local community.

"The greatest fear of a waste incinerator that the residents of Rathcoole, Saggart, Newcastle, Lucan, Kill, Clondalkin and Tallaght have is the emission of dioxins. Also, the fear of extra traffic, strong odours and constant noise. They do not wish Rathcoole to be known as the incinerator village."

Local Fine Gael councillor Derek Keating said the development failed to comply with the objectives of the Dublin waste management plan, it would damage people's health it and would deter house buyers.

"It was clear from this preliminary oral hearing that the strongest possible representations will be made at the substantive oral hearing by the local community and the local authority to ensure that An Bord Pleanála refuses planning permission for this proposed incinerator," Mr Keating said.

Local resident and Raid member Deborah McDermott said it was "environmental injustice" to locate an incinerator near Clondalkin and Tallaght on the basis that people living there might be less likely to complain.

The Irish Times

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Limerick regeneration

EARLIER THIS year, President McAleese visited Limerick to launch a major community development and physical refurbishment programme for the most deprived areas of the city. It was identified, correctly, as the most ambitious social project undertaken by the State. And it promised to transform the prospects of thousands of families whose lives have been blighted by high levels of unemployment, poor quality education and health services and depredation caused by drug-dealing gangs.

Intimidation, anti-social behaviour and internecine warfare were all part of the toxic mix. Now, it appears the Government may delay necessary expenditure. This must not happen. People in these estates simply cannot wait until Government finances improve.

It is not just about building new houses, although in the current economic climate that would make good sense. It is about the level and quality of services available and the provision of community-based facilities. Most importantly, it is about ensuring that law and order prevails within these communities. Family-based gangs that have made the districts virtual "no-go" areas for years should receive no quarter from the authorities. Funding for a continuing high level of Garda activity and for extra personnel must be provided in order to reassure and support law-abiding citizens and to draw a line under the legacy of the "bad old days".

A masterplan for regeneration of the designated areas was presented to Limerick City Council yesterday by the chief executive of the project, Brendan Kenny. He made the point that while funding was not immediately required for the demolition and reconstruction of an estimated 3,000 homes and the provision of new town centres, it was essential that other aspects of the plan be implemented in order to tackle an unacceptable level of lawlessness. Major capital funding will not be needed until next year. In the meantime, however, official commitment and support for the 10-year project is vital.

Here is an opportunity for the Government to show its commitment to community values, social progress and basic fairness. Ever since the Budget, it has been castigated for favouring the rich over the poor and for concentrating cutbacks on the least well off. It can show now not just that it cares, but that it is flexible and focused enough to provide funding for the necessary educational, psychological, special needs and health services that can give the young people in these communities a positive start in life. Above all, families should be entitled to feel safe and secure in their homes.

The Irish Times

New bridge at Achill to open this week

THE FIRST vehicles are expected to be rolling across a new bridge to Achill Island in coming days.

The €5 million swing bridge at Achill Sound replaces the old structure called after Michael Davitt, founder of the Land League, which was provided in 1947 after the pivotal mechanism of the first bridge, built 60 years earlier, had become stuck and corroded.

Before 1887, the narrow sea channel at Achill Sound could only be crossed at low tide on foot or on horseback.

Now, the third major bridge in Achill's history is ready to go into service for the inhabitants of the island and the tens of thousands who visit every year. The swing mechanism allows pleasure boats fishing boats and other vessels pass.

The old bridge had begun to give problems.

Michael Mongan, senior engineer with the council, said: "The elements were again taking their toll on the mechanism. You could open the bridge to allow vessels through but you ran the risk of not being able to close it again."

SIAC Construction began work on the project in September last year. Work proceeded slowly throughout the winter as overhead high tension wires had to be re-routed underground.

The opportunity was taken to complete a phase of the Achill Sound sewerage scheme in conjunction with the new cabling.

Mr Mongan said the bridge would be commissioned this week, meaning that the equipment which will pivot the bridge will be powered up and tested. He said he did not foresee any difficulties.

There will be a kiosk at the bridge with automatic controls on it, a one-person operation. There will be barriers for traffic such as exists at railway level crossings or similar to those on one of the Shannon bridges at Tarmonbarry.

The weight of the new structure is about 200 tonnes.

"It is important to keep it as light as possible so that it can swing easily on its central pier," Mr Mongan said.

Work is now under way to remove about 25,000 tonnes of material used to build the temporary causeway which was in place throughout construction.

The Irish Times

Piped floodwater proposed for Dublin

ONE OF the options being considered in a major study of Dublin's water supply would involve taking water from the Shannon when the river is in flood and piping it to a large reservoir in the midlands.

Consultants RPS Veolia are looking at the possibility of taking water from Lough Ree and Lough Derg in winter and storing it in a reservoir on cutaway bog near Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath, from where it would be piped to Dublin.

This may emerge as the "preferred option" in the study - due to be completed before the end of 2009 - as it would overcome fears that the Shannon lakes would be "drained" if the water was simply piped to Dublin directly.

Last month, objectors from the Shannon catchment area marched to Leinster House to protest against proposals by Dublin City Council to abstract 350 million litres of water a day from the river's two largest lakes to serve consumers in the capital.

The march was organised by the Shannon Protection Alliance, a coalition of objectors from the catchment area set up in April 2007 after the city council identified Lough Ree as the most likely source from which Dublin would need to draw extra water.

The council's water engineers believe that the capital will require such a new source by 2015 to cater for its growing population.

However, the alliance is adamant that the plan to take it from the Shannon would be an "ecological disaster".

There are also fears locally, particularly around Lough Ree, that water levels in the lake would fall drastically, damaging its principal money-spinner - leisure boating on the Shannon. The Shannon Regional Fisheries Organisation also opposes the plan.

However, Dublin City Council has maintained it would only draw off 2 per cent of the volume of water in the river in any year. If this could be confined to the times of year when the Shannon is in flood, the environmental impact would be less.

The direct piping of water from Lough Ree to Dublin was provisionally costed at €550 million- €600 million. No estimate is available for the additional cost of building a large reservoir in the midlands, though this is likely to be substantial.

Domestic water use in Ireland, at 160 litres per capita a day is among the highest in Europe. Economists have attributed this to the absence of tariffs based on consumption. Water charges were abolished in 1997.

With 83 per cent of drinking water coming from surface water, Minister for the Environment John Gormley has said that water shortages "will be a key issue that Ireland will have to grapple with in the future", mainly because of the impacts of climate change.

The huge capital cost of providing a new supply for Dublin at a time of severe budgetary constraints will obviously pose problems for the Government. However, there is little appetite among Ministers to reintroduce water charges to fund it.

The Irish Times

Gormley set to intervene over development plan for Ennis

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley is expected to intervene in the drawing of the new Ennis development plan after members of Clare County Council, contrary to national policy, loosened rules for one-off housing.

A special council meeting on the adoption of the draft Ennis and Environs Plan was told that a submission from Mr Gormley's department had made it clear that the development plan was not compatible with national policy or with the National Spatial Strategy.

The council's senior executive planner, John Bradley, also told councillors that their decision to allow exceptions for one-off homes along national routes in the draft plan "is not consistent with national policy and is going against National Roads Authority policy".

Responding to a call by Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Hanrahan to further loosen restrictions on one-off housing in the countryside, Mr Bradley said: "We can do no more and are likely to be told by the department to remove what is in the plan."

Mr Bradley said that the council had loosened up restrictions on one-off housing rather than tightened them up.

Last year, when members of Monaghan County Council chose to ignore a department directive on what should be in the county development plan, Mr Gormley used special powers to make the department's suggested changes.

Fianna Fáil councillor PJ Kelly said there were "terrible clouds" coming from a submission by the department to Clare County Council.

In its submission on the draft plan, the department said that the controls on the establishment of housing in countryside areas should be reviewed.

The department states that there were a number of terms and phrases, "which if not defined clearly and precisely, would create the potential for significant numbers of new residential houses in the countryside areas".

In a separate submission, the National Roads Authority has told the council to eliminate exceptions that it has included in the draft plan to allow one-off homes on national routes.

The department backed up the roads authority's submission by stating that its exceptions listed for one-off housing on national routes were not in line with national policy.

In the draft plan, the council is proposing to allow the development of one-off homes on national routes for farmers and their sons and daughters working on the land.

However, councillors have rejected the contents of the roads authority's submission, prompting Mr Bradley to sound his warning that the draft plan was contrary to national policy.

The Ennis draft plan is to now on display for a further period and has to be adopted by December 8th.

The Irish Times

Councillors endorse high-rise provisions

DUBLIN CITY councillors have voted to endorse new planning principles that would allow high-rise buildings to be built at 15 locations around the city and suburbs.

The council's strategic planning committee yesterday recommended that the city's development plan be changed to allow buildings of 16 or more storeys at five specific locations and buildings of up to 16 storeys at a further 10 locations around the city.

Their recommendation will be put to the full meeting of the city council in December. However, some councillors and the An Taisce representative on the planning committee said the change should not go ahead and any review should be considered as part of the next development plan, which comes into force in 2012.

Under the proposals, buildings of 16 or more storeys will be permitted in the Docklands; the Connolly Station area; George's Quay including Tara Street and Hawkins House, the Digital Hub including Thomas Street/James's Street and the Heuston Station area.

A further 10 locations could accommodate buildings of eight to 15 storeys, the document says. These are Phibsboro; Grangegorman; the "north fringe", where the city meets Fingal on the Malahide Road near Darndale, Clonshaugh Industrial Estate; Ballymun; Pelletstown; the Dublin Industrial Estate near Cabra; Ballyfermot, Parkwest/ Cherry Orchard and the Naas Road near the intersection of Long Mile Road.

Labour Mary Freehill proposed the issue of heights should be considered as part of the next development plan. Speaking in support of Ms Freehill's proposal, Labour Dermot Lacey said there was "enormous cynicism" among the public about the planning process. "A significant change out of sequence with the development plan only increases that cynicism," he said.

Valerin O'Shea of An Taisce said she believed there should be no rush to incorporate high-rise principles into the plan.

The Irish Times

€3bn plan to rebuild worst areas of Limerick

A €3 BILLION plan for the largest regeneration project in the State's history was unveiled in Limerick yesterday.

The Limerick Regeneration Plan aims to totally transform some of the city's most-deprived housing estates over the next ten years, with the demolition of some 3,000 homes.

The public cost of transforming Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary's Park between 2009 and 2018 is estimated at €1.67 billion with a further investment of €1 billion expected from the private sector.

Replacement housing, estimated to be in the region of 2,400 homes, will be built to house existing families who wish to stay in these areas.

However, in order to help redress the current and historic social imbalance in the housing mix, all additional housing above that will be private and/or affordable housing, according to the 200-page document unveiled yesterday.

The draft plan proposes the construction of at least 5,000 additional private homes in the three areas.

Currently, over 52 per cent of householders in the estates own their homes, while 48 per cent are renting from the local authority.

The draft plan provides for that mix to change to 20 per cent social/rented and 80 per cent private ownership. The significance of the massive plan for Limerick is highlighted in the words of Southill parish priest Fr Pat Hogan in the opening pages of the blueprint unveiled yesterday.

"Critical historical moments come to cities rarely, maybe every odd century, this is one for Limerick," he said.

Fr Hogan said pockets of poverty "on a par with some of the worst in the world" were allowed to develop in certain parts of Limerick. With Limerick regeneration an opportunity "is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry", he wrote.

Meanwhile, Brendan Kenny, the man tasked with driving the regeneration plan over the next decade, admitted that he is seeking funding at a bad time.

"The reality is, yes, we are going to Government looking for funding at probably the worst economic climate over the last 30 maybe 50 years, which is ironic for the people living in the regeneration areas, that they lived through an unprecedented economic boom over the last 15 years and really didn't benefit from it," he said.

"We are confident of getting continued support from Government for this vital project, however Government departments will need to carefully assess all the implications of this draft plan, in particular the funding issues," he said.

It is exactly a year since the regeneration agencies started working on their plan to transform some of the most deprived parts of Limerick city, and just over two years since the horrific arson attack in Moyross on children Gavin and Milly Murray-McNamara, which underpinned the whole process.

Gavin and Milly were aged four and six respectively when the car they were sitting in was petrol-bombed in September 2006 by local youths.The children's mother Sheila had earlier refused a lift to a number of youths, one of whom decided to burn her car in revenge.

The north side and south side regeneration agencies were established after the Government commissioned former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald to report on how to tackle the social, criminal and economic problems in Limerick's troubled estates.

Mr Fitzgerald yesterday stressed that those engaged in anti-social activities would not be accommodated in the regenerated areas.

"We have made it quite clear that those who are engaged in criminal activity or serious social problems will not be accommodated in the new areas. That is what people have looked for and that is what they are entitled to," he said.

"Already that message has got out there. There are people who might have felt that they had some kind of licence to be disruptive before who have suddenly realised it is in their interests not to cause the kind of havoc that they did cause in those areas."

The draft plan unveiled yesterday focuses on the three key pillars of physical, economic and social regeneration. Mr Kenny said job opportunities were critical to the success of the plan.

Key objectives include the development of educational facilities, construction of town squares, and a new business park in Moyross.

The Irish Times

Breakdown of Limerick city project costs

THE regeneration project will cost €3.1bn. This figure will be made up of: l €1.7bn in public money l €1.4bn private sector money.

This €3.1bn total will be spent as follows:

l €1.1bn for housing.

l €400m for investments in industrial and commercial enterprises.

l €300m for infrastructure.

l €1.3bn of the total is allocated for a range of social, education, training, cultural and civic facilities.

Irish Independent

Dublin City to permit tall buildings in five locations

DUBLIN'S skyline could be set for massive changes in coming years after city councillors yesterday moved to begin the process of allowing tall buildings in key locations.

Councillors have agreed to a variation to the 2005-2011 Dublin city development plan at a forthcoming December meeting, which would allow greater height and density for new developments.

If the variation is accepted, it will see buildings of up to 16 storeys or over 60 metres high allowed in five city centre locations. A further ten locations on the city's fringes could see buildings of a similar height permitted.

At a time when development site values have plummeted in some areas, the council's high rise plans could help to bolster values for some sites by up to 30pc

The areas selected for the non-restricted heights are Dublin's Docklands and Poolbeg; around Connolly Station; George's Quay incorporating Tara Street and Hawkins House; the Digital Hub including Thomas Street and James's Street and around Heuston Station.

The council's plan states any application "must make a positive contribution to the urban character of the city," and developments must adhere to six robust assessment criterias.

They are design, environmental sustainability, social inclusion, economic contribution, access to public transport and cultural and heritage awareness.

But one property agent argued yesterday the councillors' decision could add little or nothing to the value of development sites.

"In the current market, banks will not lend the money for a development unless the developer can sell 60pc of the apartments beforehand or do a pre-funding deal for offices with an investor or occupier.

"The larger the development, the more expensive it is to develop,"said Garvan Walsh of agents Kelly Walsh.

Garrett Kelleher, the Irish businessman behind the delayed Chicago Spire scheme, is expected to redevelop Hawkins House near Tara Street, in partnership with the Office of Public Works.

However, the former Jury's hotel sites in Ballsbridge and Burlington Road, now owned by Sean Dunne and Bernard McNamara, are not included in the proposals.

CIE could benefit from sites at Tara Street, Connolly and Heuston Stations, while Liam Carroll and Sean Dunne, who have recently engaged in a court battle over their north docklands sites, look set to benefit in that area.

Colin Bartley and Donal Buckley
Irish Independent

Half of €3bn suburb revamp bill to be paid by taxpayer

THE cost of regenerating four of the country's most deprived suburbs would be over €3bn -- with the taxpayer picking up the bill for more than half of the overhaul.

In total, the Government would have to pay just over €1.7bn for the 10-year redevelopment of the Limerick suburbs of Southill, Ballina- curra-Weston, St Mary's Park and Moyross.

It is hoped that a further €1.4bn would come from private investment.

But at the presentation of the masterplan to the city council yesterday, Brendan Kenny, the chief executive of Limerick Regeneration Agencies, said that all involved were "very conscious of the new economic environment".

"But we stress that the investment proposed will be required over a 10-year period and that, ultimately, a successful regeneration project will deliver considerable economic benefits and savings for the State."

John Fitzgerald, chairman of Limerick Regeneration Agencies, also issued a stern warning that there would be no place in the new estates for any person involved in criminal activity.

The affected areas in Limerick have been plagued by gangland violence and high levels of anti-social behaviour.

The masterplan focuses on three key pillars of regeneration: social, economic and physical. Mr Kenny said that physical regeneration would be the most visible and had already predominated public debate in relation to the project, but he said social regeneration was the "most critical element of all".

The social regeneration aspect sets out about 50 different actions while, in relation to housing, the draft plan sets out to demolish 3,000 houses in a bid to have 80pc of residents as owners of their new homes.

Currently, in the regeneration areas, 52pc of residents own their properties while 48pc rent their homes from the local authority -- resulting in these estates having the highest concentration of of social housing in the country.

Speaking of the significance of the regeneration project, Southill Parish Priest Fr Pat Hogan said: "Critical historical moments come to cities rarely, maybe every odd century. This is one for Limerick."

Limerick Regeneration Agencies chairman Mr Fitzgerald said the estimated figures "are robust and conservative, but they are not final figures".


"We have made that quite clear in the report . . . that almost half of the total cost is private sector investment. Somewhere, between now and the end of next year, we will have an opportunity to check out the appetite that is there in the private sector for private housing, offices, shops and job creation -- which is what is going to change these places," Mr Fitzgerald said.

"If we simply replace social housing with more social housing it is not going to solve anything. The whole idea is that at the end of this project we are going to have a better social mix," he added.

The former Dublin City Manager also issued a stern warning to criminals in the affected areas, saying: "We have made it quite clear that those who are engaged in criminal activity or serious social problems will not be accommodated."

"There are people who might have felt they had some kind of licence to be disruptive before, who have suddenly realised it is in their interests not to cause the kind of havoc that they did cause," Mr Fitzgerald added.

Last night, Limerick City councillors welcomed the masterplan ahead of a planned full meeting to discuss the 205-page document.

Barry Duggan
Irish Independent

State must find €1.6bn to rebuild city’s estates

THE beleaguered Government is facing a fresh financial challenge.

The state will have to come up with €1.6 billion in order to back the massive €3bn government-commissioned plan to transform rundown, crime-ridden, housing estates in Limerick.

As the plan was backed by Limerick City Council yesterday, Southill parish priest Fr Pat Hogan said: “An opportunity is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry.”

The council was told that the plan marks an epoch in government strategy to bring new hope to the lives of thousands whose neighbourhoods are gripped by poverty and crime.

Although it carries a price tag of over €3bn, backers warned that failure would be even more costly.

More than €1.6bn will be needed from Government funds and a further €1.4bn from the private sector.

The plan to demolish and rebuild Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park has been widely welcomed in the city.

Brendan Kenny, head of the two regeneration boards, said what is envisaged should be viewed as an investment as much as a cost. “We have a mandate from Government to do this.”

Mr Kenny said it will be 2010 before they start the new housing and at that stage they will seek “a small amount of capital investment” to start the project.

“The overall funding is not required now, it won’t be required in 2009, it will be required over a period of 10 years. The money will have to come ultimately.

“We are not naive and understand the situation we are in at the moment and there are likely to be some delays, but we are talking abut a plan for implementation over 10 years and a plan for Limerick city for the next 50 to 100 years.”

There is all-round acceptance that Limerick’s most rundown estates could not go looking for public funding at a worse possible time. But its backers warn that the cost of doing nothing would even be more catastrophic.

Central to the plan is the demolition of 2,500 houses which will be replaced by 4,800 dwellings in mixed public/private estates.

Former Dublin city manager, John Fitzgerald who was asked by the Government to put a regeneration programme in place said: “There is no easy solution to problems that have already spanned many generations — particularly to change behaviour and attitudes that exist both inside and outside these communities that are deep rooted and create barriers to progress.

“However, once implementation begins there is a lot that can be done relatively quickly during the earlier years of delivery. The potential benefits of implementing this plan far outweigh the costs.”

Mayor John Gilligan said: “We now have a clear strategy to bring us into the implementation phase of regeneration. We must seize this opportunity and use it to advance Limerick as one of the most vibrant and progressive cities in western Europe.

Irish Examiner

Limerick regeneration plan ‘an investment that will pay for itself’

THE man whose report prompted the government sponsored regeneration plan for Limerick said it is an investment that will pay for itself in the long term.

Former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald said he would have been much more concerned about the economic downturn if they had the plan ready two years ago and were now looking for private and public sector investment.

He said: “In a way it is fortuitous that we are not at that stage now. By the time we get to that stage in a year’s time, I think things will have changed quite considerably and bottomed out. We will know, then, where we stand and how long it will take.”

The regeneration plan, he said is a must. The alternative to do nothing was not an option.

He said: “You can’t leave things simply as they are...”He said much progress has been made since he published his original report 18 months ago.

“It is really the beginning of the beginning. It’s a long haul programme to deal with issues that span generations,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald added that he is confident that the necessary funding will come.

He said: “The tide has turned, but it will turn again by the time we get well into it [the plan]. Most of next year will be taken up at planning process.”

He said they have been receiving “phenomenal” support from both the environment and justice departments despite the economic change.

Mr Fitzgerald said the costing are “robust” and “conservative”.

Over the coming year they will have an opportunity to check out the private sector appetite to get involved.

Irish Examiner

Limerick regeneration plan ‘an investment that will pay for itself’

THE man whose report prompted the government sponsored regeneration plan for Limerick said it is an investment that will pay for itself in the long term.

Former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald said he would have been much more concerned about the economic downturn if they had the plan ready two years ago and were now looking for private and public sector investment.

He said: “In a way it is fortuitous that we are not at that stage now. By the time we get to that stage in a year’s time, I think things will have changed quite considerably and bottomed out. We will know, then, where we stand and how long it will take.”

The regeneration plan, he said is a must. The alternative to do nothing was not an option.

He said: “You can’t leave things simply as they are...”He said much progress has been made since he published his original report 18 months ago.

“It is really the beginning of the beginning. It’s a long haul programme to deal with issues that span generations,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald added that he is confident that the necessary funding will come.

He said: “The tide has turned, but it will turn again by the time we get well into it [the plan]. Most of next year will be taken up at planning process.”

He said they have been receiving “phenomenal” support from both the environment and justice departments despite the economic change.

Mr Fitzgerald said the costing are “robust” and “conservative”.

Over the coming year they will have an opportunity to check out the private sector appetite to get involved.

Irish Examiner

€63m Tipperary-Cork gas pipeline unveiled

PROPOSALS to build a €63 million gas pipeline to supply industries in the Cork region have been unveiled at an oral hearing.

Gerry Keane, deputy managing director of Bord Gáis networks division, told the Bord Pleanála hearing that gas imported from Britain would be pumped through the country’s pipeline network and through the new 47km line, which will run from Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, to Midleton.

Bord Gáis wants to start construction next March, completing the pipeline within six months.

As part of the project the company is seeking access to land owned by about 120 people.

John Gordon, Bord Gáis’ senior counsel, told the hearing that 80 of those landowners had already agreed to provide wayleave access, but he was seeking a further 40 compulsory access orders under the 1976 Gas Act.

He said Bord Gáis had a very good 30-year track record in laying pipeline and to date had constructed 1,500km of underground pipeline throughout the country.

Nearly all the land involved is agricultural, although nearer Midleton, where the land becomes more urbanised, the 600mm wide pipeline will be reinforced and buried at a depth of 1.2 metres.

Reinforced pipeline will also be deployed at 51 road crossings and 16 river crossings, including the River Blackwater.

A total of 9,500 tonnes of steel pipeline will be laid along the route.

Cork County Council officials said the chosen route didn’t compromise any future growth of urban areas and welcomed the fact that it would provide people with an alternative power source.

Officials added that as the pipeline passed some areas of special conservation, works should be agreed in advance with Cork County Council and the National Parks & Wildlife Service to ensure minimum disruption to flora and fauna.

The county council also wants a €253,000 fund set up by Bord Gáis to provide communities with some form of compensation and to ensure the upkeep of local roads.

However, Mr Gordon said Bord Gáis had no difficulty setting aside some money under the ‘community gain’ programme, but the company was proposing to give 20 community councils along the route payments of €5,000 each.

South Tipperary County Council officials said the project would provide quality infrastructure that wouldn’t impact on amenities in their area.

Jervis Good, an environmental expert with the Department of the Environment, said he didn’t have an objection to the project if conditions were attached to pipe laying works, especially across the River Blackwater so it wouldn’t impact on aquatic life.

Bord Gáis experts envisage that a micro-tunnel would be built under the Blackwater to reduce any impact on the river.

The Commission for Energy Regulation has already received an application from Bord Gáis, but has said it will not make a ruling until after Bord Pleanála has made its decision.

Ministerial consent was granted under the Gas Act last August.

Bord Pleanála senior inspector Ann-Marie O’Connor is expected to make a decision on the application in December.

The hearing at the Midleton Park Hotel concludes today.

Irish Examiner

‘A new beginning has been offered to the city’

LIMERICK’S Northside and Southside Regeneration agencies identified three key pillars around which the entire €3 billion plan will be formed — social, economic, and physical regeneration.

The authors state: “Social regeneration is ultimately about building key characteristics such as self-esteem, confidence, civic pride and motivation. These ingredients if developed throughout communities, heighten social standards, and lower disadvantage; they also break down external prejudices and build trust”

With unemployment running at over 80% in the Limerick estates identified, the authors say economic regeneration should include new government incentives to attract private sector investment.

“Job creation is greatly challenged by the education deficits in these areas. Currently there is a very high percentage of people in these areas with only basic primary education and creating an environment whereby young people are not alone encouraged, but want remain in education is also central to economic regeneration.”

Physical regeneration will be the most obvious part of the plan, given the number of houses to be demolished that will need to be replaced.

Replacement housing will be limited to the amount of houses needed to cater for families who wish to stay in their areas. All other housing beyond this will be private and/or affordable housing.

The authors add: “The physical regeneration element of the plan is, however, by no means exclusive to housing and will also include provision for retail, sporting, youth, educational and childcare infrastructure developments.”

One of the many exciting proposals provides for the development of a regional park on the site of an old landfill near Moyross.

The new Moyross will be divided into five distinctive estates with their own characteristic.

Local amenities will also include a central garda station, town park, train station linking to the nearby city centre-Ennis line and sports park.

Southill’s Fr Pat Hogan, a member of the southside regeneration board, said: “With the advent of Limerick Regeneration, a new beginning has been offered to the city. An opportunity is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry.”

Irish Examiner

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

50,000 new homes lying empty in 'ghost' estates

AT LEAST 50,000 newly-built homes are lying empty in 'ghost' estates across the country because of the economic downturn.

Hard-pressed developers and estate agents are being forced to drop their asking prices by as much as 50pc in a desperate effort to shift unwanted homes dotted across the country.

An Irish Independent investigation has also found that hundreds of housing estates which should have been completed at least two years ago are still unfinished.

Figures from local authorities show that county councils will not take responsibility for maintaining roads and open spaces in at least 300 estates because they have not been finished to the standard required by the planning permission.

The glut of empty homes -- many built under tax break schemes -- shows the pressures now being faced by homebuilders in the economic downturn.


House completions are at their lowest level in years and builders are putting off starting new homes until the market improves.

Thousands of potential homebuyers have also been refused access to credit, with many others deciding not to buy in the hope that prices will fall further.

The Irish Independent has found:

l The situation is worst in the midlands, border counties and the west of Ireland. Many properties are in areas marketed as being close to Dublin and other major cities, but in fact are in rural areas.

l There is up to 12 months' supply of homes currently empty -- twice what would be expected in a 'normal' market.

l Rural villages, such as Rathcormac in Co Cork, are swamped with unsold real estate.

l One developer has slashed asking prices by 50pc in an effort to sell properties.

Earlier this month, a report by Goodbody Economic Consultations found that 50,000 units had been built but not sold. It estimated there was 19 months of supply of second-hand homes for sale in Ireland. It concluded there could be a vacant stock of homes in the country in the order of 100,000 units.

While estate agents say that the market favours buyers, the Construction Industry Federation has warned that further prices cuts were unlikely.

"Prices have reduced by 30pc, and there isn't much scope for more cuts. A lot depends on the return to normal financial arrangements," a spokesman said.

Friends of the Irish Environment director Tony Lowes said the glut of new homes had "virtually emptied" some rural villages. "This has produced a very strong social impact because people living in these villages find they have no neighbours any more," he said.

The situation was criticised by the Labour Party, which said the pace of development in rural areas was "never sustainable".

"These estates were built by developers who clearly set out to make a profit and the position has changed. There should be no intervention in the housing market in what we would see as a normalisation process," the party's housing spokesman Ciaran Lynch said yesterday.

"This is developer-led, it was never sustainable. There's a difference between building housing estates and building communities."

Meanwhile, new figures show thousands of people have shown interest in securing a Government-backed mortgage which allows people on salaries of at least €40,000 to borrow up to €285,000 -- a maximum of 92pc of the value of the property -- from local authorities.

In one week, 4,500 people visited the Homechoice Loan website, with 583 registering an interest in availing of the scheme.

Paul Melia, Stephen O'Farrell and Caitrina Cody
Irish Independent

Council to sell Moore Street sites

DUBLIN CITY Council has agreed to sell its properties on Moore Street to Chartered Land for €12 million, paving the way for the redevelopment of the former Carlton cinema site.

Chartered Land, the company behind the Dundrum shopping centre, has applied to the council for permission for a €1.2 billion development of apartments, shops and restaurants within a 5.5-acre block bounded by O'Connell Street, Parnell Street, Moore Street and Henry Street.

The site is centred on the former Carlton cinema and adjacent derelict site, which are owned by Chartered Land. However, the company, owned by Longford-born developer Joe O'Reilly, also requires council-owned properties to complete the scheme.

The lands are at 24 and 25 Moore Street and were formerly used for storage for the traders on Moore Street. The buildings are now vacant and the traders have been compensated for the loss. The compensation sum could not be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality, the council said.

The council has agreed to dispose of the just under 100sq m site for €12 million. However, the sale is contingent on Chartered Land being granted planning permission for the development.

The disposal cannot take place until it has been ratified by the city councillors. Councillors in the central area have already agreed to the proposal and it will go before the full city council next week. The council is likely to ratify the decision of the local councillors.

Despite having applied for planning permission for the development last April, Chartered Land is still waiting for a decision from the city council.

The council planners last June sought further information in relation to 14 aspects of the scheme including proposals for a sloping public park at roof level with panoramic views over the city. The developers have 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.

They have also been asked to address the concerns of the council's conservation officer in relation to the protected structures in and around the site. Chartered Land has until December to respond to the council.

The Irish Times

Councillors to vote on Dublin high rise plan

NEW PRINCIPLES for locating high-rise buildings in Dublin are to be put before city councillors for the first time tomorrow.

Council planners earlier this month published a review of densities and height in the city with details of 15 locations in the city and suburbs where high-rise buildings could be permitted.

The first step towards incorporating these locations and high-rise principles into the Dublin City Development Plan begins tomorrow, when the council's strategic planning committee will be asked to vote on a draft variation to the development plan.

The variation expands on the review document and lays out the specific criteria for developers seeking to build in each of the 15 locations identified for tall buildings.

Buildings of 16 or more storeys will be permitted in only five areas in the city. These are the Docklands; Connolly Station area; George's Quay including Tara Street and Hawkins House; the Digital Hub including Thomas Street/James's Street; and Heuston Station area.

A further 10 locations could accommodate buildings of eight to 15 storeys, the document says. These are Phibsborough; Grangegorman; the "north fringe" where the city meets Fingal on the Malahide Road near Darndale, Clonshaugh Industrial Estate; Ballymun; Pelletstown; the Dublin Industrial Estate near Cabra; Ballyfermot; Parkwest/ Cherry Orchard; and the Naas Road near the intersection of Long Mile Road.

The docklands will have the "greatest potential" to accommodate height, say the city planners, and is the area likely to have the tallest buildings. These should be concentrated on the northern side of the Poolbeg peninsula, but the plan says there should be some symmetry between the north and south banks of the Liffey.

The area likely to see the most significant change is around Tara Street. This is the closest point to the historic core of the city where a building of more than 16 storeys could be located. However, the planners state that any high-rise building must not "intrude" on the main square of Trinity College.

The planners make particular mention of the Hawkins House "site" although the 12-storey Department of Health building is still standing and there is no application for its demolition. The planners say this would be an appropriate location for a "mid-rise marker" of up to 16 storeys.

The criteria for the site of the former mental hospital at Grangegorman, which is to be the new DIT campus, includes several references to nearby Broadstone. The physical integration of Broadstone and Grangegorman will be "promoted", the planners state, and one or two mid-rise buildings at Broadstone/Constitution Hill should be considered.

The variation to the plan also puts strict new requirements on large developments. Any application for more than 200 residential units must include an audit of facilities in the area as well as plans for educational and childcare facilities, shops, social facilities and open space.

Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan, chairman of the planning committee, said the variation to the development plan would eliminate the large number of inappropriate developments which come before the planning authority.

"Until now someone could apply for the Eiffel Tower in O'Connell Street and due process would have to be gone through. Under this change if a development does not meet the criteria, it can be thrown out immediately."

The change also brought certainty to communities, he said.

"You now know if a high-rise building is permissible in your area, and even in areas designated for high rise you know there will be very tight controls on what can be built, and you also know there will have to be a benefit to your community."

The reviewed high-rise strategy follows negative public reaction to the council's Maximising the City's Potential document, a draft of which was published last year.

Although that document was never ratified it had been used to justify planning applications for high-rise developments and was mentioned in several Bord Pleanála hearings including the recent hearing on the Jurys/Berkeley Court hotels development in Ballsbridge.

The Irish Times

Waste operators to challenge local authorities

A CASE taken by waste management firm Panda against the control of Dublin’s waste collection by the local authorities begins today in the High Court.

The four Dublin local authorities earlier this year varied the Dublin waste management plan, adding a clause which would allow a local authority to put its waste collection service out to tender, or decide that waste would be collected by the local authority only.

The change, if implemented by a local authority, would end private firms’ freedom to operate anywhere in Dublin and could force them to bid for a contract to collect waste and work within the council’s terms and conditions.

Panda and rival waste firm Greenstar are taking separate High Court cases against the local authorities. The waste companies have alleged the councils are abusing their position as both regulator and competitor in the domestic waste collection market.

The Panda case will be heard first, followed by Greenstar. Dublin City Council, which is defending the case on behalf of the four local authorities, said it wants to stop private operators from moving in on the council’s waste-collection service.

However councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown said they want competition between private operators to continue in their local authority area and their county manager Owen Keegan has admitted that private firms are offering a better service.

More than half of the 66,000 homes in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have switched to private collection. Fianna Fáil councillor Gerry Horkan said competition from the private sector had improved prices and service for the consumer.

“It would be very difficult to say to people who have switched to Panda, which is 20 per cent cheaper than the council, that you can’t use that service any more.”

Dublin City Council had argued that private waste operators didn’t provide services such as waivers for those on low incomes, but Mr Horkan said Panda had offered to collect from those with waivers in the Dún Laoghaire area.

“In theory the council should be able to operate cheaper than the private operators because there is no demand to make money, but it doesn’t. The old style public sector days are gone, the idea that Panda should no longer be able to collect waste is a throwback to the 1940s and 1950s,” he said.

While he was opposed to local authorities having a monopoly on waste collection, he also thought it was a bad idea for the service to be put out to tender to one operator. “I have no interest in turning a public monopoly into a private monopoly.” Former PD councillor Victor Boyhan said private collectors had kept council waste charges in check and said a waste management regulator should be introduced to stop local authorities form being service providers and regulators. Mr Keegan in a recent letter to councillors private operators offered “a significantly better service at lower cost to households”.

Fingal County Council is taking the same line as the city council and believes the local authority offers the best service. “We provide a better service than Panda, Greenstar or CityBin,” Fingal’s director of environment PJ Howell said.

South Dublin County Council were contacted for comment but did not respond.

The Irish Times

Regeneration plan for Limerick estates unveiled

A draft plan for the regeneration of housing estates in Limerick has been unveiled this afternoon.

The Limerick Regeneration Agencies plan, which was announced at a meeting of Limerick City Council at 4pm, sets out a blueprint for the regeneration of public housing estates at Moyross, St Mary’s Park, and Southill/Ballinacurra Weston and adjacent lands on the north side and south side of Limerick City.

The draft plan estimates that the overall project for the three areas will require an investment of €1.6 billion.

The blueprint also outlines the opportunity of attracting private sector investment in the region of €1.4 billion, although Limerick Regeneration Agencies said the estimates are “very preliminary” and that an assessment of the investment required has to be carried out.

Referring to the plan, Limerick Regeneration Agencies chief executive Brendan Kenny said: “What we are setting out on here is a very ambitious, wide-ranging but ultimately achievable Limerick Regeneration project that will enhance the quality of life of and opportunity for all Limerick people.

“We will expend the vast majority of our efforts on building a future for the people of Moyross, Southill/Ballinacurra-Weston and St. Mary’s Park that is free from social exclusion, crime and disorder but we are also looking beyond that; at how we can play an adhesive role in building a better future for the greater Limerick area."

Noting that the plan was a “work in progress”, Mr Kenny added: “We are very conscious of the new economic environment . . . but we stress that the investment proposed will be required over a 10-year period and that ultimately a successful regeneration project will deliver considerable economic benefits and savings for the State.

Mr Kenny said he was confident of getting continued support from Government but that Government departments "will need to carefully assess all the implications of this draft plan".


Kildare County Council proposes to prepare a Local Area Plan for Clane. Submissions must be made no later than 5pm on 3/12/08.

bps planning consultants is a firm of professional town planners who can make submissions on your behalf. Please call Brendan or Tony on 0404-66060 or email: For further details of bps visit:


Meath County Council proposes to prepare a Local Area Plan for Dunboyne/Clonee/Pace.
Submissions must be made no later than 3.30pm on Monday 8th December 2008.

bps planning consultants is a firm of professional town planners who can make submissions on your behalf. Please call Brendan or Tony on 0404-66060 or email: For further details about bps visit

Submissions to the New Ross Town and Environs Development Plan

Wexford County Council and New Ross Town Council intend to review the existing New Ross
Town and Environs Development Plan 2004 and prepare a new Development Plan for the area.

bps planning consultants is a firm of professional town planners who can make submissions on your behalf. Please call Brendan or Tony on 0404-66060 or email: For further details visit:

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Development Plan Submission Deadline

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council's final deadline for submissions is 5:00 p.m. on Monday 3rd November 2008. This is less than a week.

If you wish to discuss a submission or the planning processes involved in making a submission, please contact bps immediately on 0404-66060.

Deansgrange Local Area Plan deadline

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is preparing a Local Area Plan for Deansgrange. The County Council has invited any interested parties or individuals to make suggestions/observations with respect to the proposed Local Area Plan during the pre-draft consultation stage. Submissions may be made in writing during the six-week period from Friday 3rd October 2008 to Friday 14th November 2008 inclusive.

If you are interested in making a submission, contact bps on 0404-66060 and we can discuss the process involved.

Monday, 27 October 2008

SEI denies shortage of assessors for energy ratings

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has strongly rejected claims from architects and the building sector that property sales will grind to a halt in the new year because no assessors have been trained to carryout energy ratings on secondhand buildings.

From January1, all existing dwellings and buildings must be assessed and rated for their energy-efficiency before they can be sold or leased.

While no assessors have been trained to carry out ratings on existing buildings to-date, SEI has said it is confident there will be enough assessors when the legislation is introduced in ten weeks’ time.

More than 800 assessors are registered with SEI to assess on new houses, but these can be carried out from the plans of the building. For assessments on existing buildings, the assessors require new training and must visit and examine the buildings.

Following a surge in demand for new training, SEI will release the methods for calculating energy ratings on existing buildings this week. This will enable 20 training providers across the country to devise courses, which must be approved by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council or the Vocational Education and Training Awards Council.

A spokesman for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) said that some of the body’s members who had trained as assessors for new dwellings had been ‘‘looking anxiously for information about courses regarding the new regulations’’.

‘‘We hope there will be a big uptake of training when these become available, because these assessors are very much needed” - he said.

Carine Gachon, of the mechanical and industrial engineering department at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, where more than 400 assessors have been trained, said she had been receiving daily enquiries about when the new courses would be available.

‘‘We hope it will be November, but there are a lot of things to put in place to comply with the certification of assessors. The new courses will be three-and-a-half days or one week long, depending on whether the candidate has done the previous course” - said Gachon.

Bord Gáis Power Plant Project at Whitegate launched

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin TD, has officially launched the Bord Gáis Whitegate Power Plant project at its site in Co. Cork.

Construction of the €400m power plant is now underway and the plant is expected to be operational by June 2010. The 445MW output of the plant would power around half a million homes.

Speaking at the event, John Mullins, Chief Executive of Bord Gáis, said - “The Whitegate power plant project is a very significant development for Bord Gáis. It represents our first major investment in the Irish power generation sector, supporting our strategy in the retail electricity market and providing much needed power to meet growing national demand. Bord Gáis currently serves over 11,000 businesses with electricity and we plan to enter the residential electricity market in the near future, offering real choice and value to households across the country.”

The Bord Gáis Whitegate power plant is a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant, which is designed to operate on natural gas as the primary fuel. Located adjacent to the existing ConocoPhillips refinery, the plant is being constructed by a consortium of General Electric and GAMA Power Systems (GE-Gama). Between both companies, there is a wealth of international experience in constructing power generating plants. GE-Gama awarded the Civil Works contract to John Sisk & Sons and several local companies have been sub-contracted for works on the site. The project will employ over 600 people at peak construction.

Minister Martin said - “Cork Harbour - and, in particular, Whitegate - have traditionally provided very important energy facilities which have helped meet our national needs and provided vital local investment and jobs. I’m pleased to see a further €400m being invested in the area by Bord Gáis in constructing a modern, efficient power plant that will not only enhance the security of electricity supplies for the country, but also marks a significant new entrant in the power generation market in Ireland.”

Bord Gáis Networks is nearing completion of the 12km underground pipeline to supply natural gas to the Whitegate plant from the national network. Eirgrid is currently preparing to connect the Whitegate plant to the national electricity grid via underground cables. This work will significantly strengthen the electricity grid system in the east Cork area.

John Mullins of Bord Gáis added - “Bord Gáis greatly appreciates the co-operation and support it has received from Cork County Council, the Gardaí, our industrial neighbours and the local community, as we work to minimise disruption during the construction of the power plant.”

Dublin city centre traffic may be banned

Dublin City Council has warned that all through traffic may have to be banned from the city centre because of congestion and construction projects.

A consultation paper says the number of commuters is projected to nearly double and that there is no room for more cars on city centre streets.

The warning comes as the council prepares a new development plan for 2011. The planning department states that the number of commuters entering the city is projected to nearly double to 375,000 people by 2020.

It says there is no more capacity on the city's roads and that traffic modelling has shown that it may be necessary for through traffic to be removed to allow the city to function. This could mean access only for motorists in the city centre and with other traffic forced onto orbital routes.

The paper states that this proposal is particularly relevant because of Transport 21 construction projects - Metro North is due to start in two years' time.

The paper does not refer to the possible effects of the economic downturn on its projections.

DART gets €900m fleet investment for 430 new carriages

IARNROD Eireann is to order almost €900m worth of new DART carriages as part of the biggest expansion of the company's fleet in its history.

The rail operator is to seek suppliers for 432 DART carriages to deliver increased capacity as part of its 'Transport 21' programme which will see new services, extensions to existing lines and higher capacity for commuters delivered over the coming years.

A list of suppliers has been prepared as part of a tender process to seek the new carriages which represent, by far, the largest carriage order ever made by the company.

Previous tenders for carriages have worked out at €2m each -- meaning the bill for this order could hit €864m.

The tender reflects the expansion of the electrified network planned under 'Transport 21' with DART extensions expected for Maynooth, the northern commuter line and Hazelhatch on the Kildare line.


The DART Underground (interconnector) from Dublin Docklands to Heuston -- a 5.2km underground second DART line through the heart of the city centre -- will integrate all rail lines into one network, and will allow passengers to travel from Belfast to Cork without leaving Iarnrod Eireann property.

The company has already seen significant expansion of the DART fleet, which has doubled in size from 2000 to 2004 from 80 carriages to 154.

But with the network set to grow, and frequency improvements planned, the fleet size is now set to multiply.

In the Greater Dublin area alone, a range of projects are proposed which will see DART and commuter passenger numbers increase from over 33 million in 2006 to over 100 million by 2015.

The company plans to select a supplier in 2009, and it is envisaged that the 400-carriage order will be placed in two phases -- with the first phase to be delivered in 2011-12.

"One of the major benefits of a funding framework like 'Transport 21' is that we can align fleet orders to the development of the network," a company spokesman said.

"We can deliver capacity improvements to commuters, and optimise value for money for taxpayers in our investment programme. In addition, the extension of electrification across a wider Greater Dublin network will lead to considerable environmental benefits, as well as the economic gain from developing a high frequency, integrated network."

The company stresses that the money will be available for the carriages, despite the economic downturn.

Meanwhile, Bus Eireann is to use double-deck coaches on busy commuter routes, paving the way for more people to be carried on individual vehicles.


Within weeks, the company will take delivery of 90 buses, worth nearly €30m, which are earmarked for use on city and commuter services in Cork, Dublin, Sligo and Dundalk.

A total of 32 of the double-deck buses will be used in Leinster for medium to longer distance commuting routes in and out of Dublin. Another 10 will be used in Dublin and Cork for medium and longer distance commuter routes. And 48 single-deck buses will be earmarked for use in Cork city, Sligo and Dundalk.

The double-deck commuter coaches are likely to be used on the 109 Dublin-Cavan route serving Navan, Kells and Virginia and the 111 Granard- Dublin route serving Athboy and Trim.

Most will enter service early next year.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Bono aims to raise the roof with radical elevation for his family's historic home

HE has, metaphorically, taken the roof off stadia all over the world. But now U2 frontman Bono is hoping to convince authorities that he will also be able to take the proposed new roof off his historic home.

In an effort to get around planning constraints associated with his Georgian property in Killiney in Dublin, the singer's architect has put forward plans for a "reversible" extension that can be removed at short notice.

The upper-floor extension, made from "a lightweight prefabricated structure", would cover the existing roof of the home on Vico Road. The shell-like structure would ensure that the original eaves and chimneys remain in place underneath.

"The removal of existing building fabric will be confined to the removal of roof slates and roof timbers only," the singer's architect, Colin Jennings, told Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in a letter.

The massive 130 sqm roof extension -- which will house a master bedroom, a study, two ensuite bathrooms, two dressing rooms and storage space -- is, on its own, bigger than a typical three-bed family home. But Bono hopes that the Lego-like and easily removable extension will convince the planning authorities that he is not undermining the integrity of Temple Hill.

An Taisce has confirmed the house is not on the list of protected structures in the area but, because it is 150 years old, has architectural significance.

A spokeswoman added the height and size of the plans would be studied in the coming weeks.


She also noted that she had never come across a situation before whereby an architect argued that an extension didn't compromise a structure because it could be removed.

Mr Jennings added in the plans that only the roof slates and timbers would be removed from the property and that the extension would "allow for the reintroduction of the original pitched roof in the future". Also included in the planning application are plans to add a ground floor conservatory-type extension with a terrace overhead.

If permission is granted, the structure will be 7,800 sq ft in size, almost eight times the size of a typical family home.

Jason O'Brien
Irish Independent

Councils won't run estates

THOUSANDS of homeowners are being forced to pay management company fees because county councils are not taking over the running of housing estates.

At least 400 housing estates which should have been completed at least two years ago have not been taken in charge by local authorities across the country, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

And in one county alone --Donegal -- there is an estimated 699 private housing developments, comprising over 13,000 homes, where homeowners are forced to pay for the upkeep of roads, sewerage systems and public open spaces.

Yesterday An Taisce slammed the situation, saying that councils were reluctant to take over the running of estates which were not built to the proper standard.

"They (homeowners) can often feel very isolated and, coupled with that, local councils are reluctant to take over the maintenance of an area until the development has been completed," Ian Lumley said.

"That's understandable because they see it as the responsibility of the developer to bring the area up to the proper standard before they take over."

Each local authority in the country was asked by the Irish Independent to provide details on the number of housing estates it expected to take in charge this year, and to state how many estates were finished more than two years ago but not yet taken over. Just nine replied -- including Donegal.

Cavan County Council had 42 estates completed more than two years ago but not yet taken over, with 60 estates -- totalling 1,200-1,500 homes -- not completed to the required standard.

Kilkenny County Council said it had 19 estates with 895 homes not completed to the standard as outlined in the planning permission.

The Green Party's Cllr David Healy from north Co Dublin said the problem was "very worrying".

"This problem is very worrying for people living in these unfinished or partially unoccupied estates. In my local area, added to this is the pyrite problem (a mineral which affects the structure of a house) and many people have had to move out for some time until it is resolved," he said.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Ambitious plan to build new airport in midlands

A NEW airport is planned for the midlands in the heart of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's constituency.

Midland Airport Development Ltd is proposing to build an airport in Co Offaly. If the ambitious plans go ahead, up to 1,000 jobs could be created in the region. Private developers are currently engaged in talks with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) about the project.

A group of 35 landowners in the Tubber area of Co Offaly, just a few miles from Clara where the Taoiseach was born, have been approached by the developers and an "optional agreement" has been reached.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) entered talks with Midland Airport Development Ltd and it is understood an offer in the region of €40,000 per acre was made to landowners.

Talks are still at a "delicate stage". However, landowners in Tubber have said there is a lot of "goodwill" towards the project. A site opposite Tubber GAA grounds and running towards Horseleap has been earmarked for the development.

Architect and promoter of the airport, Patrick Little, said a study carried out by UK-based consultants confirmed that the concept of an airport in the midlands is "viable".

"Michael O'Leary has come out and publicly said there's not a hope in hell that it would happen but we're challenging that and hopefully he'll change his mind at some point in the future.

"We think it would have significant low-cost benefits. We're not looking at taking business away from Dublin Airport but we're looking at the way international practice is developing now where major airports would need a relief airport," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Little has estimated that 1,000 jobs would be created during construction stages with a further 800 people employed at the facility in the long-term.


"Midland Airport Development Ltd hopes to avoid delays in the planning process by applying directly to An Bord Pleanala under a fast-track planning procedure for strategic infrastructure," he added.

"We will still work closely with the county council but the traditional timeframe would be shortened and if we took that into account work could commence within about two years."

Offaly county manager Pat Gallagher said the plans for an airport were "consistent" with the county development plan.

"A submission was made by a group in consultation about an airport somewhere between Clara and Moate," he said.

"We did advise the promoters to submit site location details for further discussions with our planning staff. We'd be happy to discuss it with them once we get those details," he added.

Eimear Ni Bhraonain
Irish Independent

York Street social housing

A new social housing scheme in the heart of the city is a triumph for eco-friendly design principles as well as scoring brownie points for the council's contracted developers, writes Valerie Shanley Charlie Long is exuberant at the prospect of a home in the new complex

The re-development of the old council flats on York Street is a transformation way beyond mere bricks and mortar. 'Social housing' in the past conjured up images of grim, Soviet-style blocks with basic amenities. The 66 brand-new homes that replace the original 97 flats are, according to deputy city architect Kieran Gallagher, of a better standard than some private schemes around the city.

In terms of sustainability and eco-credentials, York Street is quite something compared to its neighbouring stately buildings on St Stephen's Green. Massive solar panels, sedum-planted roofs to attract wildlife while absorbing and conserving rainwater, a state-of- the-art recycling centre, an allotment, and architectural salvage from the original tenements, all contribute to this being a flagship social housing project by the council.

However, it's the change in the lives of the council's original tenants – nearly all of whom are moving back into the new complex after being housed in alternative accommodation during the four year re-development – that marks the human transformation.

Charlie Long is one resident who lived on the street for close on three decades and he is exuberant – no other word for it – at the prospect of a home in the new complex. After returning from work in London in 1980, he fell on hard times and had to go on the council's homeless list. Although glad to get a flat on York Street, he remembers living conditions being consistently harsh.

"I worked in a hotel, returning very late at night – and I would be taking my life in my hands. The main doors into the flats would always be kicked open, anyone could come in from the street. Light bulbs would have been smashed and so I would be tripping over people slumped on the stairs, some of them maybe drunk or on drugs." Not surprisingly, a big plus for Charlie is the security of the new building. Each home has an intercom system with a camera, and there is also a 'talking' lift. The communal courtyard is also very secure, and the toddlers' playground is visible from every balcony.

The two feature Georgian door architraves, complete with classic columns, were salvaged from the original terrace of houses built on York Street in the mid 18th century, says the project's architect Seán Harrington.

The College of Surgeons still faces the development in an area that, in its heyday, was considered Dublin's Harley Street. After the Act of Union, the terrace of Georgian houses gradually declined into tenements, housing scores of families in slum conditions. The situation became so bad that Dublin City Council eventually demolished the street in 1949 and re-built the flats. But the living conditions behind the newly built, pastiche 'Georgian' façade, were far from adequate.

Up until four years ago, the York Street complex was a fire hazard; there was no fire escape, continual problems arose with damp, and bathrooms were non-existent. Tiny kitchens included a sink and toilet. Unsurprisingly, the residents wanted a say in how the re-development would improve living standards.

"The great thing about this project is that the community spirit is very together here, plus everyone is interested in eco issues," says Harrington. "The council trusted us to do something ambitious. It's a huge responsibility – you are given the trust to not only create homes, but also to create a building that sits comfortably within the city."

McNamara Construction – which last May pulled out of five public/private partnerships with Dublin City Council worth an estimated €900m due to 'adversely changed circumstances in the housing market' and new planning guidelines on scaled-up apartment sizes – was awarded the York Street contract four years ago to re-develop the site for €20m. Sustainable Energy Ireland contributed over €280,000 as part of its House of Tomorrow project. Design company Ventura ( styled two apartments to help tenants visualise how their homes could look.

"It was the first project I've ever worked on with Dublin City Council and I was delighted to have the experience

of working on such an unusual job, never mind the fantastic location," says Ventura's Arlene McIntyre, adding that the brief was to make the flats look and feel as spacious as possible.

Approximately half of the homes are one-bed apartments, with the balance split between two-bed apartments and three bed duplexes. The dual aspect light ensures the homes are warm and bright – unlike the old days when north facing flats were so dark the light had to stay on all day. Generously sized balconies function as additional rooms where the upper glass window panels fold right back to let in sunlight.

Recycling is a huge element in the design. Tony Gallagher, housing manager for the area, says everyone is excited about the state of the art 'digestor' in the recycling pavilion. "We are introducing a training programme for residents to show how leftover food waste converts to compost, and which can be used in the garden."

For Charlie, a big decision now is whether to get involved with the residents' gardening group. He's also bemused by the increased amount of offers from his sister who is really keen to stay in his swish new pad just off St Stephen's Green. "She's suggesting I go to her house for a holiday and she'll come here and mind the place!"

The council is hosting an open day for the public at the York Street development on Saturday, 8 November, from 1pm to 5pm

Sunday Tribune