Vacancy Watch: A Giant Council-Owned Site in Belmayne

The Belmayne housing estate on Malahide Road, unveiled in 2007, promised luxury apartment living. “Gorgeous living comes to Dublin,” declared the advert.

The image for the ad showed a tanned model in a slinky red dress, lying on her back on the breakfast counter of an opulent apartment, with one leg in the air. There is a man of course, leaning over her, and champagne glasses in the background.

Things did not turn out as planned at Belmayne. The crash came, the property market imploded, and the development was never completed.

Today, the council owns 11 hectares in the area, which is perhaps enough for 1,000 new homes. And Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland wants to know why the council isn’t working fast to developing that large site.

There is an “immense need for housing in the area”, said Gilliland. “I’m proposing that we create a master plan and put it into a land initiative, to develop it as one large site.”

Dashed Plans, Empty Site

The original planning permission for Belmayne, approved in 2003 was for 2,180 homes.

It included a town square as well as buildings for childcare facilities, a post office, health centre, community centre, as well as pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops.

“The original plan was great,” says Gilliland.

People already living in approximately 1,000 homes, mostly apartments. After the crash, the housing association Cluid turned some of the half-finished apartments into social housing.

There is a big patch of green land at the front, ideal for kids to have a kick about, badly needed in an estate where most people don’t have gardens.

But the council is planning to build social housing there too, says Gilliland. They are going to put in a community centre for the estate too, but it won’t be big enough, she says.

Adjoining the Belmayne site are a large, privately owned site, and also the 11 hectare site owned by Dublin City Council.

On the south-eastern side of the Malahide Road, just after Clare Hall shopping centre it is a massive wasteland, surrounded by trees and high black railings.

Call to Action

On 15 September Gilliland tabled a motion at a meeting of the council’s North Central Area Committee, calling for the land to be developed urgently.

Councillors deferred the motion until next month, so that they could first sit down with council management to discuss its plans for the site.

The council, it seems, does plan to develop the land. Just not yet. First, it argues, some roadwork must be done.

The government has allocated €3 million from its Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) to build a road to link Belmayne’s main street to Clongriffin Town Centre.

But even with that new road, the council is concerned that local roads, already jammed at rush hour, wouldn’t be able to cope with the additional traffic if another 1,000 units went in, city planner John O’Hara said in response to Gilliland’s motion.

The council believes a bypass is needed to reduce already heavy traffic at the Malahide Road junction.

However, the National Transport Authority (NTA) says it doesn’t think a bypass is a prerequisite to the development of the lands at Belmayne. There are plans to build one eventually, but not in the short term, said a spokesperson for the NTA.

Fingal Council, together with the National Transport Authority (NTA), DCC and Traffic Infrastructure Ireland are carrying out a transportation study for the whole area, said O’Hara, the council planner.

Another challenge is that, at the moment public transport isn’t good in Belmayne. Buses don’t go from within the estate; there is a stop outside the development at Clare Hall shopping centre, but it takes 10 minutes to walk there, and another 45 minutes on the bus to get to the city centre.

“It is a pity that there is no central coordinating planning team or project office dedicated with coordinating and delivering all of this,” says David O’Connor says DIT lecturer in transport planning (and a columnist for Dublin Inquirer). “If there was, there could be specific milestones, a programme and a plan for the delivery.”

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a freelance journalist. You can reach her at laoiseneylon@gmail.com.

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