O'Devaney Gardens planning process 'incredibly anti-democratic' - Lorcan Sirr

There has been significant local concern over the plans, with a protest taking place this weekend.
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.31 15 Oct 2021

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O'Devaney Gardens planning pro...

O'Devaney Gardens planning process 'incredibly anti-democratic' - Lorcan Sirr

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.31 15 Oct 2021

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The planning process that saw approval granted for a controversial development at the O'Devaney Gardens site in Dublin is "incredibly anti-democratic", housing expert Dr Lorcan Sirr says.

Plans for the site near Phoenix Park will see several large tower blocks built at the site, which was formerly home to around 250 flats and 1,000 residents.

The plan - which has been put forward by developers Barta - would see 1,047 residential units built, almost all of which would be apartments.


Permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála last month under the Strategic Housing Development process.

The process means plans for large housing developments to go directly to An Bord Pleanála rather than a local authority - effectively removing the public’s right to appeal decisions.

Following an agreement between Dublin City Council and the developer, 50% of the homes on the site would be affordable or social housing.

However, there has been significant local concern over the plans.

One issue is around the proposed height of the tower blocks - with one set to be over 46 metres high, far above the usual 24 metres allowed under the Dublin City Development Plan.

Planners say the contravention of the height rules is justified under national policy around housing delivery.

Debate around what to do with the site has been ongoing for several years, and the deal agreed around affordable and social housing has also been controversial.

An attempt by several independent city councillors to stop the increased height and density of the development has been put on hold, pending legal advice.

Meanwhile, a protest will take place tomorrow over the planned development, amid significant opposition to the plans among locals.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, Senior Lecturer in Housing at Technological University Dublin, is among those with concerns over the plans.

He told Newstalk Breakfast there’s a "misnomer out there" that all housing supply is good supply.

O'Devaney Gardens planning process 'incredibly anti-democratic' - Lorcan Sirr

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He said: "Actually, all supply isn’t necessarily good supply: it needs to be well-designed, at the right price, in the right location, and the right tenure of course.

“I’m no great Che Guvera - it would take something to get me off my couch and go down and talk to people like this. But I think the protesters’ have a good point.”

Height limit

Dr Sirr said the height of the tower blocks would be “way above” the height limit allowed under the city development plan, while there are also social grounds for objecting.

He said: “You’re going to put 2,000 people into a residential area, which is OK… but there’s no consideration for any extra services that these people will need. What GP are they going to register with? Is there going to be additional LUAS carriages for these people?

“‘Build it and they will come’ is another misnomer… in civilised countries, what you do is you have the services and then you build. You make sure there are adequate facilities for people there.”

However, he said the big problem is around the planning process itself.

He said: “The Strategic Housing Development process is incredibly anti-democratic because the decision is made by An Bord Plenála and there’s no appeal mechanism.”

He noted this has led to a situation where approval has been granted for tower blocks of a height well above the limit set down under the city development plan.

Dr Sirr observed: “We have a development plan that has been voted in by councillors, who were, in turn, voted in by us - that has set a 24-metre height limit on developments in Dublin.

“What has happened here is that there are four tower blocks - one of them is going to be 40-something metres high, and another few are going are going to be ten-storey highs.”

He suggested there’s been a “blatant disregard” for the development plan, and believes there will be a judicial review taken against this particular development.

He noted that An Bord Pleanála has lost or withdrawn from similar cases already.

Main image: Artist's drawing of the proposed O'Devaney Gardens site. Image via Barta

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