Council Briefs: a Ballyfermot Cafe, O’Donovan Road Demolition, and More Student Housing

Ballyfermot Star

Delegates from Ballyfermot Star shared the results of a study into their plan to open a social enterprise café in the Ballyfermot Leisure Centre at last Wednesday’s South Central Area Committee meeting. This is the second time Sunniva Finlay, manager of the support service for drug users, has gone before the council with the idea.

This time, Finlay and Star Chairperson Ailbhe Smyth presented a scaled-back plan based on the results of their research. Their ultimate goal remains the same – to open a full-scale café staffed by local people with barriers to employment, while providing a social space with healthy food at reasonable prices in the area. But after a detailed feasibility study, they’ve decided to start small.

The plan at present is to open a coffee cart inside the leisure centre where there are lots of passersby. The proposed cart will serve a limited menu of healthy soups and sandwiches. It will also be mobile and suitable for use in other venues and locations. They’ve asked the council for €50,000 in start-up funding.

“I think it’s certainly a very worthwhile initiative. We’ll have to go through the practicalities of it,” said Area Manager Mary Taylor. “The partnerships you’re involved with in terms of delivering it are probably one of the key things, even more so than the funding of it. We’re certainly happy to engage in relation to it.”

The House That Disappeared

There were protests outside 18 O’Donovan Road in Dublin 8 last month after half of a semi-detached house was demolished, even though planning permission only allowed for the removal of a single-storey extension behind the house. This left the neighbouring house exposed to the elements.

According to a report by the council’s area manager, “A summons has been drafted and served on the owner of the property for a date returnable in the District Court in March 2019.” The report also stated any damage to the neighbouring property is a civil matter between the owners of the two properties.

“The Planning Enforcement Section is satisfied that the action they have taken is the most appropriate to have the property rebuilt in substantial compliance insofar as is now possible with the permission granted in as short a time as possible. All options were considered following the unauthorised demolition of the entire property,” the report concluded.

Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan said the response from the planning-enforcement section was sluggish after calls by the community while the house was being knocked down. She called on the council to “beef up” its response to what planning enforcement can do.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Michael Mullooly said, “It’s time for us to enforce the section in the planning acts that would refuse [developers] planning permission on the next occasion because of their previous bad behaviour.”

More Student Accommodation on Mill Street?

Councillors discussed proposed plans for another student accommodation development in the Liberties, this time at Mill Street and Sweeney’s Terrace. This plan to build 235 student units, along with 37 build-to-rent apartments and retail units, was submitted to An Bord Pleanála earlier this month.

The proposed development would be around the corner from the 400-bed New Mill student accommodation on Mill Street that opened in 2017.

Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh) questioned the planned development’s proximity to New Mill.

New developments within 500 metres of other student housing has to prove there isn’t an undue overconcentration, said Chief Planner John O’Hara said: “And I’m surprised if that’s not in the documentation, but I’ll check it when I go back and come back to you.”

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne asked the manager for a presentation on the new planning application at the next area committee meeting.

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