‘We’ll oppose any plans to build on underused green space’

by Mark O'Brien

THERE’S been a mixed reaction from councillors to Dublin City Council chief Owen Keegan’s proposal to build on green spaces in the city.

Speaking at the Urban Land Institute conference last Thursday, Keegan said that he believed there was a case for potentially building on some of the underused green spaces in the city.

The DCC CEO said: “Quality open space is an essential component of a healthy, sustainable city.

“However, there are too many examples of amenity/open space land in the city council area that, quite frankly, do not offer significant amenity value.

“The public interest would be best served by allowing residential development of some of these sites in return for investing in improving recreational amenities on the balance of the site.”

Following initial media reports on his comments, Keegan contacted councillors to assure them that he did not plan to build in parks.

But with planning permission recently granted for a science museum on the grounds of the Iveagh Gardens, some councillors have expressed concern that more green spaces in the city will be used for housing development.

A petition to prevent the building of the museum in the Iveagh Gardens has already been signed by more than 10,000 people.

The Gazette contacted all Dublin City councillors to ask them if they would support development of the city’s green spaces. Their responses are below …

Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) said: “We need development but we also need to develop the city in a planned way which includes developing amenity sites, not re-zoning them.”

Cllr Michael O’Brien (SOL) said: “I obtained an answer from the chief executive last month regarding the amount of Dublin City Council-owned land zoned for residential development, where there are currently no plans to build.

“The chief executive’s response indicated that there is enough land in this category to build up to 10,400 units, on the basis of average densities. This is where we should begin.”

Cllr Paddy Bourke (IND) said: “We have sufficient land to build houses on if the Government would give us, or allow us to borrow, the money for the next 10 years at least.”

Cllr Anthony Connaghan (SF) said: “If we build on our lands zoned green/recreational now, we may find ourselves crying out for extra recreational lands in the future due to an increased population similar to the shortages being experienced currently in the south-central area of the city.”

Cllr Sonya Stapleton (IND) said she was not in favour of the idea, as green spaces were vital for the health and wellbeing of the community.

She explained: “Just recently, the OPW got approval to put a science museum into the Iveagh Gardens.

“Many residents and visitors are devastated about losing this tranquil park that they have used for many years.”

Cllr Ciaran Cuffe (GP) said that he felt that higher-density development should be considered on existing zoned lands.

“There is also huge potential for thousands of homes above shops in inner city Dublin.

“Tackling issues like vacancy and dereliction should also be a priority, and reducing bureaucracy that limits the Living City tax incentive scheme.”

Cllr Pat Dunne (UL) said: “I believe that a city’s parks and green spaces are the lungs of a city.

“If Owen Keegan was the Mayor of New York, would he suggest building on Central Park?

“It’s comments like these from an unelected official that proves the need for an elected mayor for Dublin, who would be accountable to the people.”

Cllr Daithi Doolan (SF) said that he felt communities, not just houses, should be built.

“Instead of taking our parks we should be demanding relevant ministers release State-owned land for housing and leave our parks alone.”

Cllr Nial Ring (IND) said that he felt that Dubliners should not have to pay the price for the housing crisis by giving up their green spaces.

“Green space is at a premium, and is also limited, and I believe we have a duty to conserve and protect our green spaces.”

Cllr Ciaran O’Moore (SF) said: “What I think is that DCC should buy institutional lands at a fair price for housing rather than a developer buy it and make a hell of a lot of money.”

Cllr Andrew Keegan (PBP) also expressed concerns about developers buying green spaces.

He said: “Parks have more value to the community and should be invested in, but building houses adds value to developers and landlords not to communities.

“It is people who live in an area that add value to a community, not building homes.”

Cllr Andrew Montague (LAB) said that there may be a case to build on poor-quality green space: “This happened in Poppintree Park in Ballymun, and I think it was a good success.

“The original park was about 30 hectares in size, was a poor-quality park, and wasn’t well used.

“A ring of homes were built around the outside of the park, and the money raised was invested in upgrading the park.”

Cllr Ruairi McGinley (IND) agreed that some green spaces could be used for housing development but felt that most should be kept as it is.

“[Keegan’s] idea … has limited application but could yield some small sites if councillors were disposed to [consider] site-specific ideas.”

Cllr Paul Hand (IND) said: “Removing amenities and increasing population is a bad idea, no matter where the location.”

Cllr Tina MacVeigh (PBP) said she felt there was no argument to support building on the city’s green spaces.

“In the Dublin 8 area, we fall some 65% below the recommended ratio between residential density and green hectarage – a benchmark set down by Fields in Trust (UK) and adopted within our city development plan.

“This is an outrage and does nothing to further the development of sustainable cities.”

Cllr Tom Brabazon (FF) said that he felt there was some scope to the idea but each site would have to sell itself.

“I would be very concerned that recreation space might be sacrificed to the long-term detriment of the city and we would lose some of the green lung areas that help to make the city liveable in.”

Cllr Alison Gilliland (LAB) said that she felt other options should be explored: “We have numerous vacant units in the city that could be brought back into use and not only provide much needed homes but also enhance local communities.

“There are also numerous ‘brownfield’ vacant sites across the city that should be used for house building.”

Cllr David Costello (FF) strongly criticised Keegan’s comments: “I think he should concentrate on developing the land that is already zoned for housing before he starts planning to level our parks and playing fields.”

Cllr Dermot Lacey (LAB) said he was not in favour of building on parks but felt that building on underused green spaces was a viable idea.

“In my own estate in Donnybrook, we have built five social homes and nine affordable homes on such sites, and 19 more will commence next week.”

Cllr Mannix Flynn (IND) said that he felt that Keegan’s comments were a “panicked response” to the housing crisis.

“You simply can’t hand over the amenity spaces and the park spaces for development.

“You just end up with a concrete jungle.”

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