Weather-stained boards on the ground floor of buildings at the corner of Belmayne Main Street and Belmayne Avenue present images of a vibrant urban quarter.
Shoppers stroll across a zebra crossing with carrier bags under the shadow of trees in full bloom. There’s a town square with space for urbanites to mill about with coffees, watching the life of the town at their leisure.
“That has been empty all the time,” says Mario Bortas, a local resident, of the ground floor that bears the boards dreaming of Belmayne’s future.
Developers of this strip of neighbourhood sought planning permission in 2004, which was granted – but one of the conditions was that it would have a library.
This building was supposed to be it. The neighbourhood also needed two community centres, the planning conditions said.
“Community facilities are kind of missing,” says Bortas. “There was no need for them when we moved here.”
As with Clongriffin, just to the east, more homes are being built around here. The town is busier, says Bortas, so there’s more of a need for such community facilities.
But years since they were granted permission, neither of the two community facilities has opened.
Earlier this month, Dublin City Council granted permission to the owner of the building to change the use of the ground floor from a library to four apartments.
Planning permission for 640 homes at Balgriffin, later to be known as Belmayne, was granted in 2003 to The Shannon Group.
The following year, Shannon Homes Ltd applied for planning permission for a development that would include 2,180 homes and 10,052 sqm of retail, commercial and community uses on the Balgriffin site.
(Shannon Homes Ltd was a house-building company founded by Frank Fahy, Joseph Stanley and Sean Stanley. It was dissolved in January 2010.)
According to an An Bord Pleanála inspector’s report, before the development could begin, the developer had to submit details about the two community centres that would be built in the town. One of the centres should sit next to the public library, it said.
But it’s unclear what happened next.
In a planning application filed for part of the site in 2007 by Stanley Holdings, a company that demerged from Shannon Homes (and whose CEO was Michael Stanley, son of Joseph), plans were supplied for the library, but it doesn’t mention community facilities.
The building where the library was supposed to go is now owned by Green Label Property Investments.
Before, it was owned by Belmayne Ireland Limited – a company whose loans were taken over by NAMA in 2012 and put into receivership.
Residents pressed for the space to be made a community facility. But with no luck.
“Four and a half years we were trying to get community facilities,” says Michelle McGoldrick, a resident of Belmayne and one of the founders of the now defunct Belmayne Youth Group.
They sought to have the promised library used as a community centre but were told by Dublin City Council that it was “unsuitable”, she says.
There are some concerns with that building, says Labour’s Alison Gilliland, a councillor for the area.
“We both know that the only people that are going to run a library is Dublin City Council,” says Gilliland. “So the council were looking at buying it.”
Gilliland says she was told the receiver wouldn’t let the council bore holes into the foundation of the floor to check for pyrite – an issue she raised at the council’s recent housing subcommittee meeting.
Neither Green Label Property Investments CEO Marc Godart nor Dublin City Council responded to queries about this.
“I kind of broke away from it all over a year ago,” says McGoldrick. “I’m not really involved anymore.”
McGoldrick spent the best part of four and a half years trying to foster community spirit in the area. She ran the Belmayne Youth Group and organised community clean-ups.
“It was just too much. The empty promises,” says McGoldrick. “Even if you had someplace to do it, that’d be half the battle.”
It would have been great for Belmayne, says McGoldrick, to have community facilities to help chip away at the segregation that exists in the town between people who own their houses and those that don’t.
“We were looking at all the empty retail units, because all of them had been given in to NAMA, where we could run the youth club,” says McGoldrick.
The empty retail units still line Belmayne Main Street – although there is evidence of some activity, with plasterers working away behind the frosted windows.
Not far away, on one side of Belmayne Avenue, lies a sign for Cairn Homes, who are building new homes around here.
Dust from the building site blows through Main Street. An empty green site is fenced off, where the other side of Main Street should be, giving the whole development a feeling of being half complete. Behind that again are the community allotments.
According to the Local Area Plan for Belmayne and Clongriffin, the “junction of Main Street with Belmayne Avenue is identified as a community hub”.
Last October, Dublin City Council applied for planning permission to complete the unfinished Belmayne Main Street and to refurbish Belmayne Avenue.
The proposed works include a carriageway, footpaths and cycleways, pedestrian crossings, landscaping and more public lighting. There was no mention of community facilities.
When Belmayne “started, it was all so full of hope. Everyone wanted to get involved and really do something good in the community. But we didn’t get anything in Belmayne in the end,” says McGoldrick.
“Then the community started going against each other,” she said. “All that talk of social housing and private, you know?”