Many years after the development of Clongriffin stalled out because of the crash, Dublin City Council is working to complete the town on its northern fringes.
At a recent meeting of councillors for the North Central Area, a Dublin City Council official outlined the latest progress.
There’s been an upturn in interest from businesses interested in moving into Clongriffin, a council report said, and the council is getting ready to take over responsibility from the developer for parts of the town – including Main Street.
That normally happens within a couple of years of people moving into a new estate, says Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha. In Clongriffin, “it is taking a very, very long time,” he says.
While all this is welcome, the area really needs a major supermarket to move into the shopping centre as an anchor, helping to attract other businesses, say councillors.
And it needs more community and recreational spaces, they say.
“A lot of people purchased homes on the back of being told that there was going to be a huge amount of shops and retail units,” said Fine Gael Councillor Terence Flanagan, at the meeting of the North Central Area Committee on 19 April.
A Grand Plan
Back in 2003, the developer Gannon Homes got planning permission to build a new suburb to the north of the city at Clongriffin.
A master plan for the area envisaged the construction of 3,600 homes, together with a town centre, including offices, a supermarket, a variety of other businesses, and parks and pitches.
But the development of the town stalled because of the recession in 2008, says a 2018 review of the masterplan. By then, about 2,500 homes had been completed, it says.
A spokesperson for the Northside Partnership, a community-development organisation, said it had conducted a survey of 973 people from Clongriffin and Belmayne.
Of those who responded, 68 percent said there was a lack of community facilities, 58 percent identified “over-density” of housing as an issue, and 43 percent said there was a shortage of community services in the area.
Clongriffin town centre has a train station, a main street, and a shopping centre.
According to the Clongriffin Town website, it has a number of businesses, including restaurants, gyms and salons.
But despite having a building designated as a shopping centre, the town has failed to attract a major supermarket from a chain like Dunnes, Tesco, Lidl or Aldi.
“It’s a little bit of a mystery, that in all this time none of them have taken the leap to go in there,” says Mac Donncha, the Sinn Féin councillor.
A large supermarket in the shopping centre would bring in people and that in turn would make it attractive to other businesses to open there, he says.
Flanagan, the Fine Gael councillor, says the developer might need to drop the rents it’s asking for, in order to attract retailers.
MacDonncha agrees. “I’ve no doubt rents are a factor,” he says. “Commercial rents are very high.”
The developer of the town, Gannon Homes, hasn’t yet responded to email queries sent Tuesday.
However, Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland says Gannon Homes is actively trying to encourage businesses to open in Clongriffin. The area has “massive potential”, she says.
One problem, though, is that according to the original masterplan, Clongriffin was supposed to include a lot of office space, which would have meant local employment.
Later, the developer was allowed to change that plan, and built homes instead of office space. “I know we need homes, but we do not want to be creating ghost towns where everybody leaves them during the day,” she says.
That means there’s less footfall during the day for some potential businesses like cafes and shops and that deters them from opening, she says.
Gilliland tabled a motion to the local area committee, in October 2019, calling on the council to liaise with Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Agency, to put in place a “proactive strategy to attract companies” to locate their offices in Clongriffin.
The masterplan is in place to ensure the overall development of an area is balanced and sustainable, says Gilliland.
“There is no real check done, when the change of use [planning application] comes in - is this impacting the overall sustainability of the area?” she says.
Another problem is that the retail units in Clongriffin are not finished to turnkey standards inside, so any business wanting to move in would have to invest a lot of money upfront, she says.
A Progress Report
Gannon Homes is in negotiations with several businesses and other organisations, which it hopes might set up shop in the area, said Deirdre Murphy, a council administrative officer, at the North Central Area Committee meeting.
A daycare centre is in the process of moving in. “The fit-out is practically complete,” says a council update on progress at Clongriffin, and they will be “taking occupation in the coming weeks”.
A number of other businesses have also expressed interest. Those include a furniture retailer, a new restaurant, a dog groomers, a shoe shop, a tanning salon and an afterschool club.
None are confirmed yet though, Murphy said. Still, the “volume of interest is encouraging”, according to the update report.
Also, the council will start the “taking in charge” process for Clongriffin Main Street in the coming weeks, “with other areas within Clongriffin including Beau Park, Belltree and Marrsfield Avenue following on after”, the progress report says.
Taking in charge is when the council takes over responsibility from the developer for maintaining the roads, footpaths and lighting on a street, road or in an estate.
Construction of a linear park between the Mayne River and Marrsfield Avenue will start soon too, Murphy said.
Meanwhile, progress continues on upgrading the junction of Hole in the Wall Road and Mayne Road. That project is due to be “substantially completed by mid year”, the progress report says.
Green Party Councillor Deirdre Cooney asked whether a mooted plan for a co-working space in Clongriffin is still going ahead.
Murphy said that’s stalled out because of Covid-19, but the council has set aside money to do a feasibility study for it.
In 2019 local residents were campaigning for a community centre for the area.
That has still not been delivered, says Mac Donncha. “From a community point of view it’s been very slow.”
Gilliland says there are small facilities that can be used by community groups to run specific activities, but a larger community facility is needed.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said there are no plans for a purpose-built community centre for Clongriffin.
“There are currently two community facilities available to the community in Clongriffin which are a joint initiative between Gannon Homes and Dublin City Council,” she says.
Clongriffin Hub on Main Street has been running since 2011, she says.
Language classes, cultural groups, dance, drama and yoga classes and youth groups all use the space, she says.
Dance schools, martial arts, mother and toddler groups, and youth groups also use access the space at Clongriffin Junction.
“Both the Hub and the Junction provide a free, bookable community space with lots of family activities,” she says.
Gannon Homes promised a certain amount of amenities when they were selling apartments in Clongriffin, says Independent Left Councillor John Lyons. “The council are trying to fill the gaps ever since.”
The area needs community and recreational space, artistic space and civic infrastructure as well as retailers he says.
He would like to see a theatre or other recreational facilities for children and adults, he says.
The Department of Housing and Dublin City Council must ensure that Clongriffin town is completed and that all of the amenities that were promised to people there are delivered, says Mac Donncha.
Work on completing the town centre cannot be stopped again if there is another economic downturn, he says. “They have already suffered from one collapse.”