Sunday 14 August 2011

Troubled city flats complex to be rebuilt

THE LONG-AWAITED regeneration of the troubled O’Devaney Gardens flat complex in Dublin has been granted permission by An Bord Pleanála.

The 1950s council complex was one of five social housing schemes in the city which were to have been developed under a public private partnership between developer Bernard McNamara and Dublin City Council.

Following several delays, the deal with Mr McNamara collapsed in May 2008. Attempts that summer to rescue the schemes were unsuccessful, and the council formally terminated its relationship with the developer in August 2008.

Later that year the council announced it would rebuild the social housing in the three largest estates – St Michael’s, O’Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street.

Built in 1954, O’Devaney Gardens originally consisted of 278 flats in 13 four-storey blocks, of which all but five blocks have been demolished. An Bord Pleanála has granted permission for 120 homes, 60 of which will be used to house council tenants, with the remainder being offered as private or affordable housing.

A later stage of development is ultimately planned to bring the number of residential units to just under 400, but this is still fewer than half the number proposed in the McNamara scheme. The proposals agreed with the council in 2006 for 820 units, mostly private apartments, would at the time have made it the second largest regeneration scheme in the city after Ballymun.

Unlike the McNamara proposals, two-thirds of the accommodation will be houses or duplex units, with just 43 apartments. The board has also approved plans for a new tree-lined “boulevard” one-third of a kilometre long, and a 4,680sq metre park.

The entire estate will be rebuilt in three phases over 10 years, with two further applications due to be made by the council to An Bord Pleanála. The council has estimated the cost to the State at €32 million.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment yesterday said it had agreed “outline” plans with the council for the regeneration, but it was awaiting detailed funding proposals.

Regeneration board member and Labour councillor Emer Costello said the board would be meeting next month to discuss the application for the first phase of funding and the tender for a principal contractor.

The board hoped a contractor would be in place early next year and that the first units would be ready to be occupied by council tenants by 2014.

“We want to move on this as quickly as possible, the residents have waited long enough in terrible circumstances,” Ms Costello said. The new scheme was “vastly superior” to the McNamara plan as it had a 30-35 per cent lower density of units and would be about 50 per cent lower in height, she said.

The estate, which has been dogged by criminal and anti-social behaviour over several decades, was the scene of riots in the summer of 2008, which included arson attacks on homes and vehicles. Violent incidents reached their peak that August when fighting after a wedding led to the attendance of several dozen gardaí at the complex. In recommending a grant of permission, An Bord Pleanála inspector Stephen Kay noted the council’s master plan for the site sought to “design out” the potential for anti-social behaviour.

“The combination of a greatly improved physical environment, design features to significantly reduce the potential for anti-social activity and unsupervised areas, and the creation of a mixed residential environment with a mixture of private and social housing would, in my opinion, lead to a reduction in the likelihood of criminal activity and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

Irish Times

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