DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has agreed to draw up a Local Area Plan (LAP) for the Phibsborough region in response to concerns expressed by local residents about the possibility of widespread unregulated redevelopment taking place in the north city suburb.
Substantial construction projects are expected to get underway soon in the general area including the redevelopment of the 20-acre Mountjoy jail site, the 30-acre Broadstone/CIE site and the 65-acre Grangegorman campus where the Dublin Institute of Technology is to relocate.
The proposed Luas extension to Broadstone and the new Metro line extending through the north inner city are expected to further enhance development opportunities in the area.
"This is one of the biggest areas of potential change in the whole of the city, " says James Pike of O'Mahony Pike Architects who drew up a preliminary masterplan for the Broadstone site. "What happens to these three sites will have an enormous bearing on the future of the whole area."
"We're currently at the predraft consultation stage, " says city council assistant area manager, Hugh McKenna.
"We've had a number of public meetings with interested parties including local residents, public representatives and business owners in the area. We've also received about 70 submissions from members of the public. Issues like traffic, height and density and community facilities are high on everyone's agenda."
A draft document based on data collated from these sources will be drawn up and presented to city councillors.
After that a further period of public consultation will take place.
A LAP is made up of a written statement and maps, plans and drawings setting out objectives for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
Unlike the Framework Development Area Plan originally intended for the area, a Local Area Plan has a statutory basis and will oblige developers to adhere to specific criteria cited in the document.
Because it is a legally binding document, the planning authority and An Bord Pleanála must take account of the provisions of the LAP when considering an application for planning permission for a development located within the area defined by the plan.
"The plan should have been in place a long time ago, " says Labour party councillor, Emer Costello. "The fact is that development has been taking place in a piecemeal and ad hoc way. It's not organised, co-ordinated or structured. No-one has been looking at the overall picture and taking account of issues like drainage, water services and traffic.
"Residents are anxious that the LAP should now be put in place as soon as possible. We feel that any significant future development should take place within the context of the plan. There is concern locally that some pre-emptive development could take place with some builders effectively jumping the gun to start construction before the rules and regulations are set out."
Large parts of the area are zoned 'Z2' which means they are recognised as 'residential conservation areas'. "People are very anxious to maintain the architectural integrity of the area, " Costello says. "In relation to the redevelopment of an area like Dalymount Park or Mountjoy there would be concerns about the height of any new buildings erected there.
Density too is a major issue.
As councillors we're being told to zone for residential buildings because families are having to commute. But in reality what we see getting built are more and more apartments aimed at the investor market and which as a consequence attract a transient population with no real stake in the community."
Residential development is expected to form a sizeable part of any new construction projects undertaken in the area. "The Grangegorman campus alone will induce a lot of housing development, " James Pike says. Accommodating DIT's 39 current education centres at the location is expected to attract 20,000 pupils and 2,000 staff to the area.
"A very small portion of the subsequent residential demand will be satisfied on site. But the expectation is that there will be a lot of offshoot development including residential, commercial and retail too."
According to Marie Hunt, head of research with CB Richard Ellis, developers will analyse all potential land usage before proceeding with any specific projects. "Most of them will look at residential initially because it's probably the most profitable. After that you would look at what other uses could work on the site. For example, in relation to office development my gut reaction would be that Phibsborough isn't established as an office location so you wouldn't necessarily be thinking of putting the kind of blocks you see in the docklands there.
"There will certainly be demand for retail. I don't expect we're talking about shopping centres - what they call comparison retail. It's more probable you're talking about convenience type retail aimed at facilitating the expected rise in the local residential population."
The 18km-long Metro North line is expected to carry some 34 million passengers annually and should allow passengers to interchange easily to rail, Luas and bus services.
Marie Hunt believes the improved transport infrastructure will, to a large extent, shape the character of future development in Phibsborough. "If you look at what's happened with the Luas line for example, increased height and density have been allowed in areas adjacent to the tracks. Accessibility allows for the maximum use of public transport which is seen as a big plus.
Developers will even pay a contribution to the line going through their lands because that will allow them to get increased density and a better gain on the site."