The 17-hectare site on Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock has been a wasteland for about 45 years, according to Austin McCoy.
In that time, there have been three major developments proposed, and all of them collapsed at “five minutes to midnight”, says McCoy, who is chair of the residents’ association at nearby Lorcan Estate.
The latest is a plan to get developers to build 640 homes on the site as part of Dublin City Council’s housing lands initiative.
At a meeting of the council’s North Central Area Committee last week, a council official said development at Oscar Traynor Road would not go ahead until work had begun at O’Devaney Gardens, according to People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons.
“The process is stalled,” Lyons said. “The council don’t have time to fill more than one project at a time. We’re two years waiting.”
But a spokesperson for the council said the Oscar Traynor Road housing project is not stalled. The plan has always been for the O’Devaney Gardens project to go first, Oscar Traynor Road next, and then St Michael’s Estate, the spokesperson said.
An early outline of the housing lands initiative from December 2015 said that “it may be possible for development to take place concurrently on each of the subject sites”, and suggested that the Oscar Traynor lands would be first.
Councillors maintain that this is another unnecessary delay for the long-awaited development of the site, and members of the consultative forum are frustrated by what they see as inadequate engagement by the council with them and other stakeholders.
The project at Oscar Traynor Road seems to be in a queue, and there seems to be only one project team, says Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland. “Each project should have its own team.”
“There are other things they could be doing while they’re waiting for the tender documents to go through,” Gilliland says, suggesting getting a compulsory purchase order for the section of land at the back of Clonshaugh Industrial Estate, to create an exit from the land, which would alleviate traffic on Oscar Traynor Road once the development starts.
Furthermore, the development is to be 50 percent private housing, 30 percent social housing and 20 percent “affordable housing”, McAuliffe said. But it could be hard for developers to put together bids for the site as it’s not entirely clear what “affordable” means.
It’s shocking that there are so many obstacles, says McAuliffe. For a long time after the crash, the council weren’t building at all, so there isn’t a huge team for projects like this, and resources come out in a phased process, he said.
An Onerous Process
At last week’s meeting, the council Project Estate Officer Connell McGlynn told councillors that developers would not be invited to present their proposed plans for the Oscar Traynor site to the council until a similar process has finished for O’Devaney Gardens.
In an update emailed to councillors on Monday, McGlynn wrote that the invitation to developers would be issued as soon as outstanding issues are clarified with parties including the National Transport Authority regarding a number of transport issues in the area.
National policy changes must also be taken into account, according to the update. This includes the draft guidelines on building heights released in August, and new standards for apartments. This might result in a small delay of the development, the emailed update said.
“Realistically, it will be this time next year before anything really happens,” Gilliland says.
The procurement process is complex and onerous, a council spokesperson said, but the council is “satisfied that very good progress has been made on the first two projects and the first stage of the Oscar Traynor process has been completed (Short-listing of tenders)”.
The council anticipates that a developer will be selected for the Oscar Traynor Site in early 2019. After that, the developer will submit a planning application to An Bord Pleanála, with full consultation with the local project consultative forum, the spokesperson said.
Brendan Dalton, a member of the consultative forum, said “The project managers have chosen the longest possible process of finding developer(s) for the building of the proposed 640 housing units – 3 years going on now.”
And, in the meantime, there isn’t much consulting going on. So far, the forum has only met once this year, says Dalton, and when it does, it’s council managers who set the agenda, and residents aren’t heard.
“The forum is up and running for the last twenty months, but there are very infrequent meetings,” says McCoy, who is also a member of the for “[We have] no opposition to the development of this land. […] We just want to be a part of it,” he says.
The Land Development Agency
Gilliland and McAuliffe are sceptical about whether the government’s new Land Development Agency, launched earlier this month, could help speed up the process at Oscar Traynor Road.
The process of handling the project over from the council to the new agency might simply slow it down further, Gilliland said.
The new agency can go take on other, new projects, she said. Meanwhile, ongoing projects should be fully resourced. “I want to see Dublin City Council enabled to take on additional project workers,” she said.
The Land Development Agency is taking more power away from local government, says McAuliffe. “It’s setting up a new quango,” he says.
“Dublin City Council own the land and want to develop the land. […] The Department is making us jump through the hoops,” says McAuliffe.
Like Gilliland, his concern is that there’s only one project team working on any development at a time, when several could be underway at once.
Says Gilliland: “There are loads of other projects in the pipeline, so the question emerges, what else is being held up?”