Monday 2 August 2010

High-rise ban 'will drive out investment'

A DECISION by Dublin city councillors to prevent applications for high-rise or even mid-rise buildings under the new Dublin City Development Plan will drive investment out of Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has warned.

Councillors this week voted to amend the draft development plan for 2011 to 2017, so that buildings above 28m – about half the height of Liberty Hall – cannot be built in any part of the city unless a separate local development plan is adopted.

Even in areas already identified by the council as suitable for high-rise or mid-rise buildings, such as the docklands, developments must remain low-rise until a Local Area Plan (Lap) has been brought into law.

A senior council planner told The Irish Times he hopes the Laps for the areas identified as mid and high-rise can by completed within two years.

However, the city council’s first Lap, which was to have dealt with development in the Ballsbridge area, was drafted over a two-year period but eventually rejected by councillors in June 2007 because it included provision for high-rise buildings. Three years on, no new Lap has been devised for Ballsbridge. Construction industry representatives said the councillors’ decision has put the economic recovery of Dublin and by extension the national economic recovery, in danger.

The point of the city development plan is to set out standards so that investors can have a reasonable expectation as to what is permissible when making a planning application. The removal of heights has created a dangerous uncertainty according to Hubert Fitzpatrick of the Dublin section of the CIF.

“The danger associated with this is that investors will choose not to look at proposed investment centres within Dublin until such time that the various Local Area Plans are prepared and adopted.”

The length of time it will take to draft and adopt the Laps will result in lost opportunities for investment, Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“It is not feasible to imagine that a business intending to set up an office or retail or other commercial activity in Dublin will invest in areas where there is no certainty as to even basic standards such as height.”

An even greater danger was that investors would get a message that mid and high-rise buildings were never going to be acceptable in the city and would take their business elsewhere, he said.

Jim Keogan, executive manager of the council’s planning department, said substantial resources would now be put into bringing in the Laps within two years.

“Priority will be given to preparing development plans for the areas designated for height.”

The problem with the Ballsbridge Lap was that what constituted mid and high rise hadn’t been agreed at the time, he said. He added that the development plan would be released for further public consultation before it was adopted later this year.

The areas designated for high-rise buildings of 50m or more were the docklands, Heuston and Connolly stations and George’s Quay. Areas suitable for mid-rise buildings of up to 50m include Phibsborough, the Digital Hub, the North Fringe, Ballymun, Pelletstown, Park West/Cherry Orchard and the Naas Road, Grangegorman and the Clonshaugh Industrial Estate.

Irish Times

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