Tuesday 9 June 2009

Gormley gives green light to St Michael's Estate houses

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley has approved funding for 32 new social units at St Michael’s Estate, Inchicore – more than one year after the collapse of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme for the complex.

Developer Bernard McNamara was to have built 165 social, 75 affordable and 480 private homes on the site of the dilapidated 1970s flat complex in Inchicore under a PPP deal with Dublin City Council.

The PPP for St Michael’s Estate, along with four others in similar estates in the north inner city, collapsed in May 2008. Attempts were made throughout last summer to rescue the schemes, but these proved unsuccessful.

Mr Gormley yesterday announced he had approved the council to spend €7.8 million on the first phase of development, which will allow them to build 32 social housing units on two acres. The council yesterday said it would be ready to break ground on their construction early next year.

The council formally terminated its relationship with Mr McNamara last August under a deal which saw the developer agree to pay €1.5 million compensation to the council, relinquish any claims on the lands and hand over any plans.

In return the council agreed not to sue Mr McNamara.

The council set up a task force to examine the five failed schemes at Dominick Street and Seán McDermott Street in the north inner city, O’Devaney Gardens, and Infirmary Road near the Phoenix Park, and St Michael’s Estate.

Last December it announced plans to rebuild the three largest – St Michael’s, O’Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street.

The smaller plots of land at Infirmary Road and Seán McDermott Street are not existing social housing complexes with residents needing rehousing and their redevelopment has been shelved.

St Michael’s Estate was the only scheme to have live planning permission, enabling the council to go directly for Government consent for its redevelopment.

Under the new plans, €36 million will be spent building 137 social and affordable units, a creche and community building on four acres of the 14-acre site. The council hopes the rest of the site will be privately developed at a later date.

It estimates that this private development could take place between 2015 and 2017.

The council said it also hoped to seek planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for the O’Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street sites early in the new year.

These schemes will be similar to St Michael’s Estate in that the social and affordable elements will be built first using public money and the remaining land will then be offered to the private market for residential and some commercial development.

The council plans to have 80 social apartments at Dominick Street and about 270 social and affordable homes at O’Devaney Gardens, 70 of which will be built in the first phase.

Building work on both these schemes is unlikely to take place before 2011.

A sixth regeneration PPP, this time between Bennett Developments Ltd and the council, collapsed last December. The future of Croke Villas, a 1960s block of 79 flats off the Ballybough Road, is still being determined by the council’s housing taskforce.

John Bissett, a member of the St Michael’s Estate community regeneration team, said the go-ahead for the redevelopment had been long awaited, but was welcome.

“I think it’s important to recognise good news when you get it and the residents are delighted that something is happening after 10 years. We just want to make sure it actually begins now and this isn’t another false dawn and I would like to remind Mr Gormley today that this is just two acres of a 14 acre site and ultimately we need whole site development.”

Irish Times


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