About this time last year, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan put out a statement calling for some of RTÉ’s land to be given over for housing. The idea hasn’t died.
At Monday’s monthly meeting of the full Dublin City Council, councillors debated and voted on a motion put forward by Sinn Fein’s Chris Andrews to call again on the state broadcaster to give up some of its land for “modular housing”.
“It’s beyond me why these big organisations, these big agencies, cannot, I suppose, think outside the box,” said Andrews.
Andrews said it was an attempt to ensure that “rapid-build housing” for homeless families is spread across Dublin, and not just put into marginalised areas. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be delivered in Donnybrook and wherever,” he said.
People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons tabled an amendment to change Andrews’ motion so that it wasn’t just about putting “modular housing” or “rapid-build housing” on RTÉ land, but about putting any kind of social housing there. That passed.
Most councillors backed the amended motion. “There is a significant amount of state-owned land here that should be used for (…) mixed-use development,” said Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne.
Labour Party’s Dermot Lacey said he’d go further, given that it looks as if RTÉ might be looking at developing its lands. “We should use our powers in relation to the development plan in ensuring that there is a far higher quota on those lands of social and affordable housing,” he said.
Other institutions, such as the Catholic Church, have a lot of land, too, said independent Councillor Christy Burke.
Workers’ Party Councillor Éilis Ryan said she suspected that RTÉ’s initial response to the proposed motion might be to suggest that the council first use its own land for affordable or social housing. “I think their criticisms would be fair,” she said.
At the moment, there’s no indication that any RTÉ land is on offer to Dublin City Council, said Deputy Chief Executive Brendan Kenny. “Certainly, we would welcome such an offer,” he said.
He noted that RTÉ seems to be considering redeveloping its site in Donnybrook, and that, if it does, the council would as usual be entitled to 10 percent of any housing built.
The motion, with the amendment, passed.
Independent Councillor Damien O’Farrell questioned how the grass cutting is being done in the Dublin City Council area.
At the moment, some of the grass is cut by contractors and some councillors think it isn’t being done right.
“My understand is that under that contract, contractors don’t cut the edges of green areas, which I find completely and totally unacceptable,” said independent Councillor Christy Burke.
Cutting the grass costs an estimated €5.5 million over a four-year contract, after all. “Contractors are not doing the jobs they are supposed to do in some areas,” said Burke.
Labour Councillor Mary Freehill also said she’s had quite a few complaints about the quality of the work in several areas, she said.
The council has a tender out for grass-cutting services.
At Monday’s meeting, O’Farrell put forward an emergency motion asking for a meeting about the contract, in which councillors could discuss how to set performance indicators and make sure their issues are covered before any contracts are renewed or awarded.
The motion passed.
Fianna Fail Councillor Claire O’Connor said she thought the issue illustrated how the councillors’ functions were being usurped. “We’re only brought into the monitoring after the contracts have been awarded,” she said.
Assistant Chief Executive Declan Wallace said it’s a mixture of parks department staff and contractors who cut the grass. If contractors had to do steep verges and tight edges of footpaths, it would cost more, he said.
“The time involved vis-a-vis what it currently takes, I think would add hugely to the contract,” Wallace said. At the moment, edges are tidied up with weedkiller, he said.
Chief Executive Officer Owen Keegan said he was sympathetic to the members’ complaints, and said that council management would set up a meeting to try to resolve concerns.
The Housing Land Initiative
Councillors were some way into a debate about whether to ditch the plans to develop land at Oscar Traynor Road – one of the proposals under the housing land initiative – before they realised that it was against council rules to debate it.
Lyons wanted to scrap the plan, and start consultation again, asking for finance from the Housing Finance Agency or the Department of Housing.
He didn’t find many allies; most backed the current plan to work with private developers and put 30-percent social housing on the site.
“That is a recipe for continued inertia,” said Sinn Fein Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha.
“It’s basically a call on us to do nothing,” said independent Councillor Ruairi McGinley.
The council decided to set aside the rules – as they can if it’s agreed – and vote on the motion. It failed.