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Monthly Archives

July 2021

Future ground-floor use at Dolphins Barn derelict site

By Local Ameneties

At the corner of Dolphins Barn/South Circular Road, 33-37 Dolphins Barn beside the Spar, a site has lay derelict for more than 15 years. Plans are now underway to provide up to 20 public homes at this site and my attention is now fixed on what we’re going to do with the ground-floor space of that development.

At the moment, the Dolphins Barn/SCR junction is just that, a junction. People come here to visit the Spar or the Tesco or they might even go to Ziggy’s but in general, people don’t spend time in what should be Dolphins Barn village, they just pass through it.

I am firmly of the view that delivering a community or social enterprise use, rather than a commercial unit, at this ground-floor space could enhance Dolphins Barn village and make people want to spend time here.

Background

This site is back in Dublin City Council ownership after being sold off to a private developer in 2015. It was sold off in 2015 on the basis that the developer would begin construction at the site within four months of being granted planning permission. Permission was sought and granted for 12 apartments and two ground-floor commercial units. By 2020, following legal wrangling, the land was back in Dublin City Council ownership.

What next for the site?

With more than 14,600 people on Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list, the delivery of public housing on this site is very welcome. Myself and other Councillors representing the South West Inner City have met with senior with Housing officials in Dublin City Council and we’re all on the same page that we want housing delivered on this derelict eye-sore as soon as possible.

Already there have been expressions of interest from Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), which are independent, not-for-profit organisations, to deliver housing on behalf of the Council at this site.

Ground-floor use

Sick of the empty commercial units under apartment blocks in the area, I launched a survey of local residents looking for community feedback on what uses people would be interested in for this ground-floor location.

Only 1 in 4 respondents wanted the ground-floor of this development to be for solely commercial use, with 75% of respondents saying that they wanted a community service, social enterprise or mixed use at this site.

Over 92% of respondents to the survey agreed or strongly agreed that there were too many empty/vacant commercial ground-floor units in the Cork Street/Dolphins Barn Street and Fatima area.

Some of the ideas for community uses and social enterprises included: a community arts space, childcare facility, youth centre, public swimming pool, library, artists studios and many more.

On the back of this survey, I put down a motion at the Dublin South Central Area Committee calling on Dublin City Council to exhaust all options to provide a community or social use at this ground-floor location, which was unanimously supported by all Councillors.

Funding

A key hurdle to overcome will be the funding of such a ground-floor community space. Time and time again we are reminded that Dublin City Council’s housing budget can only be spent on housing and not community infrastructure. This means that we are left scrambling to fund basic community services. This is a national issue the Government has yet to get to grips with. Without funding for community resources to go along with our much-needed public housing projects, we are setting ourselves up to repeat past failures.

While I am hopeful that funding can be sourced to deliver a community space at this location, I received the following noncommittal response to my motion:

The City Council is currently reviewing the options for the development of this site at Dolphins Barn/South Circular Road. The inclusion of a community element on the ground floor of the scheme will be considered when determining the appropriate option for the site.

First year as a Councillor

By Local News

I was formally co-opted to replace Rebecca Moynihan on 8 June 2020 and over the past year have worked tirelessly to represent the people of the South West Inner City, in what has been a very difficult period for many.

Having my first year as a Councillor in the midst of a pandemic has been a challenging but very rewarding experience, and I have learned a lot from working closely with Senator Moynihan, Labour colleagues on Dublin City Council and indeed the rest of my colleagues in the South West Inner City, particularly Cllrs. Devine, MacVeigh and Pidgeon.

Major projects

Since coming on to the Council, I have engaged with residents and community groups across the Dublin 8 area, particularly around major projects such as the redevelopment of the Player Wills, Bailey Gibson and St. Teresa’s Garden sites, the National Children’s Hospital construction project at St. James’s and the regeneration of the former St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore.

These are all massive projects with huge potential for Dublin 8, but it is essential that residents and local communities are able to engage along the way, and crucially, that local views are listened to and taken on board.

Quality housing

Further, I have been very active on the quality of accommodation that is being provided in the South West Inner City. Yes, we are in a housing crisis, but that does not mean we give the green light to developers to pack in inadequate and unsustainable accommodation types, such as co-living. I vocally opposed co-living developments on Cork Street, as part of the Player Wills development and in Old Kilmainham.

Unfortunately, we were only successful in stopping one of these developments, the Old Kilmainham one, but broader political pressure meant that Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien, gave in an eventually banned co-living. On this, something I remain very concerned about is the possible conversion of student accommodation in co-living at a later date. This is something I continue to monitor and keep an eye on.

Sporting Amenities

As someone who has grown up in this area and played all different kinds of sport including football, GAA and rugby, I am committed through my role as a member of the of DCC’s Arts, Culture, Recreation and Leisure SPC, to improve the sporting amenities on offer in the South West Inner City. We have paved the way for the development of an all-weather, multipurpose pitch as part of the redevelopment of St. Teresa’s Gardens, thanks to the dedication and commitment of the Sporting Liberties organisation.

There is so much more to be done in this respect, especially across our flat complexes to improve the quality, and crucially, the management of the pitches we provide. This remains a high priority for me and something I’ll be working on over the coming years.

Outdoor Summer

Finally, something I have been working on over recent weeks is Dublin’s preparation for an outdoor summer. In the longer-term, we need to provide public toilets and seating areas for people spending time in the city – people shouldn’t have to be paying customers to use toilets or find places to sit. I am in favour of footpath widening and reallocating our road space for pedestrians, but we have to strike the balance between supporting businesses and jobs by providing for outside dining and just providing basic public services and public spaces.

In the shorter-term, I have supported temporary measures brought in under ‘COVID Mobility’ to pedestrianise Capel Street and Parliament Street and other streets around the Grafton Street area. I appreciate there are accessibility concerns but would argue now is the time to make roads and streets more available for people, not cars. While many of these projects are on a temporary or trial basis, I think Dublin as a city could hugely benefit from developing and enhancing its outside dining culture. Making the space available for this to be possible is a crucial first step but I accept there are issues around the unpredictability of Irish weather and so on and therefore would be interested in examining seasonal footpath widening/pedestrianisation from May-September each year in our city centre.

Over the coming months and years, I will continue to work on the above and much more. Get in touch if you have any queries or suggestions.

St. Michael’s Estate and Sporting Amenities

By Local Ameneties

The long overdue regeneration of St. Michael’s Estate (Emmet Road) in Inchicore is set to deliver 500 public homes on public land. The site will be the first pilot scheme offering 30% social housing and 70% affordable/cost rental housing. Planning permission is expected to be lodged for this scheme in autumn of this year and it is crucial we get this development right so that it can serve as a blueprint for future developments on public land.

A number of issues remain to be ironed out regarding this development. One of the major concerns I, and many others have, is how ‘affordable’ the affordable housing on this site will be. The Government has simply yet to define how it will calculate its cost-rental models. Further, the Minister is on-the-record indicating a “for profit” element could be included. We have already seen through the Government’s proposed Affordable Housing Bill that homes to the value of €450,000 in Dublin are deemed affordable. The silence on this issue has left many people filling that vacuum with speculation and it would be much more helpful if specific detail emerged on what future tenants are St. Michael’s will be expected to pay.

Five-aside playing pitch

Another issue that has emerged in recent months is the provision of a five-aside playing pitch as part of the regeneration of St. Michael’s. In two previous drawings of proposed plans for the site in 2018 and 2019 an improvement on the existing five-aside pitch was included. Following local speculation that the existing pitch, which sits next to to the sports centre in Inchicore, may be ripped out and not replaced, I put in a question to Dublin City Council, and it was confirmed that the pitch would no longer form part of the redevelopment due to design reasons but that it would happen elsewhere adjacent to St. Michael’s.

I found this to be completely unacceptable because a regeneration of this nature should be about enhancing and building upon existing community amenities and not taking them away. Despite the pitch’s current poor condition, it is still used by the local community. It doubles as a football kickabout area and a basketball court. The pitch is located next to Inchicore Sports Centre which is ran by Inchicore College. It could be argued that the poor condition of the pitch is down to the management of the facility falling between the two stools of DCC and Inchicore College.

To avoid such mismanagement in the future, I believe locating the pitch next to the revamped sports centre as part of this regeneration project on the Emmet Road site, and ensuring there is proper management and a booking system for use of the facility, would be the best option.

Dublin South Central Area Committee

After consultation with local community groups and stakeholders, at the June 2021 Dublin South Central Area Committee, I put down a motion urgently calling on the St. Michael’s regeneration design team to reverse its decision and to include this pitch in the final design. This received the backing of all local Councillors.

I received a comprehensive, but still an unsatisfactory, response from the Project Manager of the regeneration project outlining why the decision has been taken to remove it from the St. Michael’s site. While plans in 2018 and 2019 had included a five-aside pitch, “the provision of a pitch was not assessed in detail to take into consideration issues such as safety, access or structural requirements.”

Following the appointment of a design team, “the provision of a new pitch has been considered as part of the overall design for the scheme. Following careful consideration of a number of options it has been concluded that a suitable location for the pitch cannot be provided on the Emmet Road site. However, Dublin City Council are committed to providing this facility and therefore a number of alternative locations have been identified and are currently being examined for suitability.”

The three locations currently being explored to host the five-aside pitch are:

  • Turvey Park
  • Our Lady of Lourdes National School; and
  • Mercy Secondary.

While I don’t doubt that further community sports amenities at the above locations would be of benefit to the local community, I still believe that for the proper and appropriate management of the new pitch, it should be located within the Emmet Road site next to the sports centre for oversight and for access to changing rooms, bathroom facilities etc.

Following the adoption of my motion, the Chair of the South Central Area Committee wrote to the Project Management Team and the Head of Housing Delivery in DCC and we await a response.