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Local Ameneties

5 years wasted at St. Teresa’s Gardens, Player Wills and Bailey Gibsons

By Local Ameneties

The redevelopment of the St. Teresa’s Gardens, Player Wills and Bailey Gibson’s sites has been on the agenda for some time but concrete plans for delivery of homes date back to the 2017 Masterplan.

An integrated 2017 Masterplan for the three sites was signed off on and endorsed by Local Councillors at the time. This would see the St. Teresa’s Garden portion of the site developed for public housing and the other two sites developed privately by Hines Real Estate. Crucially, the delivery of a full-size all-weather multi-use sports pitch for local sports teams was to be included in the St. Teresa’s phase of the development. A compromise was reached which would see heights of up to 15 storeys across the three sites.

Brief Background

Without delving into the ins and outs of everything that has happened since then, here is a quick summary:

In 2018, Ministerial guidelines brought forward by then-Fine Gael Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy removed height restrictions, effectively giving the green light to developers to contravene local authority development plans. A 2020 ‘Revised Masterplan’ emerged following engagement between the Dublin City Council Executive and Hines – this was not endorsed by Local Councillors. The new plans saw heights significantly jump across the three sites. For example, in the Bailey Gibson’s portion, which backs onto the narrow and low-rise Rehoboth Place, heights were set to reach a maximum of 8 storeys as set out in the 2017 Masterplan. Under the 2020 Revised Masterplan, this doubled to 16 storeys. Likewise, heights on the St. Teresa’s site jumped from 15 storeys to 22 storeys.

Due to the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process, developers were able to go directly to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), bypassing local authorities. This is what happened when it came to Bailey Gibson. In spite of ABP’s own inspector arguing the proposed development constituted a “gross overdevelopment” of the site, ABP granted planning permission for the plans on the basis of the 2020 Revised Masterplan. Hines then brought forward their plans for Player Wills, which despite containing an outlawed form of housing, co-living, was also granted permission ABP.

With nowhere to appeal ABP’s decisions, the only avenue available for local residents was the courts. A judicial review brought before the High Court resulted in a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU. One of the grounds on which the case was referred to the CJEU was whether or not a democratically endorsed Masterplan, i.e. the 2017 version, could be overridden and revised without the endorsement of Local Councillors. It was estimated that it could take up to three years to hear back from the CJEU.

What then?

Throughout 2021, the Land Development Agency (LDA), which is developing the St. Teresa’s Garden site on behalf of DCC, held a series of public consultation engagements online with the local community in Dublin 8. In briefing sessions with Local Councillors, I made it clear that the consultation sessions were useless unless they were actually willing to listen and take on board the feedback they were bound to receive regarding the heights and the unsustainability of the proposed development.

At community consultation sessions and through various communication methods with the LDA, it was made abundantly clear that local residents could not be supportive of the redevelopment unless and until the heights were dropped.

Significant scale back

On 17 January 2022, the LDA confirmed it had now revised its proposals for the St. Teresa’s Garden site to bring it back in line with what was previously envisaged in the 2017 Masterplan. The maximum height would now revert to 15 storeys, with the plans for a 22 storey tower scrapped.

The LDA will hold a public information session to talk through the plans with local residents on Wednesday, 26 January via Zoom.

A victory for local residents, but time wasted

While this should be seen as a victory for the residents and community groups who have worked tirelessly over the last number of years to persist with their campaign for a more sustainable development of these sites, it also should never have come to this point.

Not a brick has been laid on either of these three prime locations because of an ideology which attempted to bludgeon housing projects through our planning system.

Five years later and we’re back to where we started: the 2017 Masterplan. What a gigantic waste of everybody’s time, energy and effort in the middle of a housing crisis. All eyes on Hines in the hope that they too climb down and revert to the 2017 Masterplan.

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.


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.


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.

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.