Saturday 1 October 2016

Council plans will create standards for years ahead

Donal Buckley

Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30

Kennedy Wilson's Capital Docks development is one of the few high rise properties to have got the go ahead from planners in recent years
Kennedy Wilson's Capital Docks development is one of the few high rise properties to have got the go ahead from planners in recent years

The four Dublin local authorities are currently in the course of formulating their draft development plans. The plans provide a framework for developers to construct the commercial and residential accommodation that the metropolitan areas needs for the period up to 2022.

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According to the CSO, the population of the Greater Dublin Area could grow by anything from 174,000 to over 400,000 by 2031. Of this, Dublin alone could see its population increase by between 96,000 and 286,000 and the Mid-East counties by between 78,000 to 144,000. But those predictions were formulated in 2013 before the recovery began to gather the momentum seen since then.

Already the growth in the population and labour force is having social and economic consequences arising from the shortages of housing and offices that have resulted from lack of forward thinking and resources.

The Government's Action Plan for Jobs projects that 66,000 roles could be created across all sectors of the Dublin economy in the six years up to 2020. That's 11,000 jobs of all types per year. However Knight Frank's analysis of the Dublin office market says that as many as 12,500 jobs a year could be created in the Dublin office sector alone on the basis of current trends.

KF director James Meagher estimates a need for over 2 million square feet of office space per annum or over 6 million square feet over the 2016 - 2018 period. While a substantial portion of this is in train, if the economic momentum is to be sustained the development plans will need to allow for future demand.

Peter Garrigan of CBRE says the four local authorities are progressing their development plans. Dublin City Council is scheduled to publish its amended plan in June this year and he expects it will be adopted in November.

Likewise with Fingal County Council which is expected to have its 2017 to 2023 plan in place by next February.

South Dublin County Council's 2016 - 2022 plan is currently at its final stage of consultation and it is expected to become effective by June.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council's plan is scheduled for adoption in the coming weeks.

The sooner these plans are adopted the sooner developers will have a clearer picture of what type and size of development is likely to be permitted on development sites.

One of the most controversial issues to be addressed is the height of office buildings, apartment blocks and hotels. A number of agencies such as the National Transport Authority and Nama, made submissions the development plan requesting removal of restrictions on high-rise buildings in certain areas.

Recently in this newspaper the chairman of Failte Ireland Michael Cawley urged Dublin City Council planners to allow more high rise hotels. He believes that the shortage of hotel rooms may be as high as 10,000, and suggested the development of three or four hotels rising to 15 or 20-storey hotels should be permitted in the IFSC and Ballsbridge.

The current city plan has identified only four locations in the city where buildings of more than 50 metres would be permitted or above 16 storeys for apartments and 12 storeys for offices. The four are: the Docklands, George's Quay and the Connolly and Heuston station areas.

In most of the inner city, office buildings must be fewer than seven storeys and apartment blocks fewer than six storeys. Curbs on height are more acute in the city suburbs where residential and office buildings in most areas would not be permitted above four storeys. Buildings located at major rail stations or "hubs" would be permitted up to six storeys.

Nine areas were identified as having potential for mid-rise buildings of up to 50m tall, but only if a local area plan was devised which permitted higher buildings at the particular location.

Peter Garrigan says the upcoming development plans have not deviated greatly from the current plans in terms of permissible heights and densities.

He also welcomes the move by the local authorities to facilitate the development of nursing homes and care facilities by redefining some zonings.

"This greatly reduces any ambiguity when interested parties wish to establish if a particular use may be permitted on a particular site," he adds.

It also comes at a time when a British nursing home company withdrew from the Irish market after encountering planning objections in south Dublin although it may not have been the objections which were solely responsible for the withdrawal.

Despite the expected departure of minister Alan Kelly from Government, the next minister for the environment is not expected to reverse Kelly's requirement for Dublin City Council to amend its development plan to allow smaller apartment sizes.

Not surprisingly then with demand for commercial and residential accommodation continuing to grow. So is demand for development land.

Garrigan says the development land market will continue to thrive in 2016 with many private landowners in the greater Dublin area looking to dispose of land holdings.

CBRE reports a noticeable increase in the volume of land being offered for sale since the beginning of this year with many of these sites emanating from various loan portfolios traded over the last number of years.

"Transaction volumes in Q1 2016 are therefore expected to be considerably stronger than in the same period last year. Demand for sites in the commuter belt of Dublin is particularly strong at present," says Wesley Rothwell.

"With a steady supply of land continuing to be offered for sale and increasing evidence of a pool of capital to support purchasing activity, we expect to see continued activity in this sector over the coming months.

"However, with development plans at various stages of adoption in the four Dublin local authority areas at present, it is likely to be some time before these site sales translate into the delivery of new supply in the capital.

"As the year progresses, we expect to see a notable increase in planning activity with an increase in the number of applications for alternative accommodation such as purpose built student accommodation and multifamily units," Mr Rothwell added.

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