October 1, 2022

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Fresh plans for the controversial Bailey Gibson site on the South Circular Road in Dublin, which would mean the height of the proposed development is more than halved, will be presented to city councillors on Wednesday.

US developer Hines has submitted a Strategic Housing Development (SHD) application to An Bord Pleanála, which will be among the last of the fast-track SHD schemes considered by the board, for 345 homes in blocks ranging in height from two to seven storeys.

In September 2020 the board granted Hines permission for 416 homes with a 16-storey apartment block on the same site. However, local residents took judicial review proceedings seeking to have the board’s decision quashed.

The High Court last year referred aspects of the case to the European Courts of Justice and it is understood a response is not expected before 2024.

Hines has decided to make a fresh application for the lower rise scheme “in a bid to get started on the long overdue development of this site”, said the company. But it has not ruled out reverting to the 16-storey development, should it receive a favourable decision from the courts.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Dublin City Council meeting, Labour Cllr Darragh Moriarty said he was not convinced the developers would go ahead with the more modest scheme.

“I don’t have any issue really with what’s being proposed here; now my only issue is with the intention behind it and whether the developers hope then never to have to build it.”

The drop in the number of homes from 416 to 345 would “not be a massive loss” to the developer, he said. “I think most people locally would like to see the new development going ahead, this site does need to be developed, and this would be broadly in line with the council’s 2017 masterplan for the site. I just hope it’s more than just a backup plan B.”

Green Party Cllr Michael Pidgeon said the new scheme “looks pretty good” although he said he would like to see more homes for sale in the development — 75 per cent of the units in the development would be build-to-rent apartments.

He said he could not speculate on whether the developer intended to go ahead with the project. “All we can do as councillors is put the policy in place. Then every application has to be judged on its merits.”

‘Dearth of public space’

People Before Profit Cllr Deirdre Cronin said she was also concerned about the large number of build-to-rent units.

“Is this going to deliver affordable homes for people? No, it’s not. It’s mostly build-to-rent and mostly studios and one-beds. There is a tiny percentage of three beds and a dearth of public open space.”

Sinn Féin Cllr Máire Devine said she would rather such a significant planning application was not made over the holiday period.

“If people are going to put in large-scale applications over what is the traditional holiday period, more time should be given for consultation.”

People were “quite gobsmacked” when they saw the height of the original scheme she said. “This new application may be trying to bridge the gap, but there are still concerns about the density of the site.”

In 2017, the council produced a master plan for the Bailey Gibson site and old Player Wills cigarette factory site, both now owned by Hines, along with St Teresa’s Gardens, the adjoining council flat complex which will be redeveloped by the Land Development Agency (LDA).

Hines last year secured permission for a 19-storey block on the Player Wills lands, but this is also now the subject of a separate judicial review. The LDA expects to lodge an application for the St Teresa’s site before the end of this year.

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