Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications., Eamon Ryan TD has welcomed confirmation that a feasibility study will be carried out into the use of Cathal Brugha Barracks for social and affordable housing.
The Green Party has been calling for this barracks to be used for housing for a number of years. In 2018, the Green Party introduced a motion to the Dáil calling for both Cathal Brugha Barracks and Broadstone bus depot to be used for this purpose.
However, Labour councillor for Kimmage-Rathmines, Cllr Mary Freehill states the idea was first mooted in a DCC Rathmines local area action plan in 2003, and while there is merit for the proposal, there is another ‘green’ issue to be considered, that is – the retention of open space within the barracks site!
Commenting on the development of the barracks site, Minister Ryan stated:
“The Green Party has for many years highlighted the huge potential that Cathal Brugha Barracks has to create 1,000 high-quality new homes close to the city centre. In 2018, we introduced a Dáil motion calling for this to happen and we are delighted that this exciting proposal is finally becoming a reality.”
The homes he noted, would be located close to schools, colleges and public transport links.
The demolition and annexing the barracks’ grounds for social housing, however, is not as straight forward as painted by the Green Party, says Cllr Freehill.
“Remember, a government directive prevents local authorities from listing publicly owned buildings such as Mountjoy Prison or army buildings, etc. But, in the event of selling them on, they will allow the local authority to assess the buildings, which could then be listed as a protected structure.”
“I have put a motion down for the next local area meeting on Monday (Feb 14). If the Cathal Brugha site ceases to operate as an army barracks, then Dublin City Council (DCC) Planning Department would carry out a survey of the site, to assess what buildings should be listed as protected structures with Record Protected Structure (RPS).”
Cllr Freehill notes that in 2003, DCC Rathmines Local Area Action Plan actually suggested the barracks being made available for housing.
“In fact, the Swan Leisure Centre was derived from that plan. It also suggested a pedestrian route through the barracks site, and proposed an extra bridge from the Grove Road entrance across the canal.”
In relation to the Green Party proposal, Cllr Freehill said an assessment would be the first step, and, “if necessary, to protect the historically important buildings and see if the site is suitable for local authority housing.”
She continued: “This area could do with a well-designed, mixed development but we must also protect the playing fields, that is, the publicly owned sports fields which are in short supply in urban Dublin.
“This is a major issue for the Rathmines community; along with housing, we must retain amenities and recreational space, this cannot be overlooked.
“We in Rathmines have the lowest level of publicly-owned open space for recreation and sport usage in the city. There is plenty of privately-owned green spaces but not publicly-owned.
Cllr Freehill already submitted a proposal to appropriately zone/retain the open space/sport field at the barracks, within the current review of the city development plan by DCC, which is open to the public for observation.
In response to the commitment of a feasibility study, Green Party spokesperson for housing, Francis Noel Duffy TD said the Greens have repeatedly called on the government to use state lands and buildings to address the housing shortage.
“The provision of Cost Rental housing is going to be an absolute game changer in the delivery of affordable rental accommodation for generations to come in Ireland, especially at well-connected sites such as Cathal Brugha Barracks,” noted Deputy Duffy.
The Housing for All Q4 2021 Progress Report indicates that there will be a scaling up of Cost Rental delivery in the coming year, with a further 1,580 homes to be delivered in 2022.
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