Rezoning proposal puts €40m family law court in jeopardy
A proposed new state of the art family law court, expected to cost up to €40m, has been put in jeopardy after councillors moved to change the zoning of part of the site.
Plans for the facility, on Church Street and Hammond Lane in central Dublin, were at an advanced stage when Courts Service officials learned Dublin City Council was seeking to rezone part of the site as a public park.
Courts Service chief executive Brendan Ryan said the proposal had come "out of the blue".
The rezoning has been proposed as part of the council's Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022. It was included in the plan despite the fact funding for the new court complex has already been approved by the Government. Construction had been scheduled to get underway in 2018 with a completion date in 2020.
"We are currently using several unsuitable venues across the city for domestic violence, child protection, guardianship, and marital breakdown cases," said Mr Ryan.
"We need to utilise all of the footprint on this site for the services we wish to offer, and for which we already have government approval in principle to build."
Mr Ryan wrote to council chief executive Owen Keegan on Thursday expressing "serious concern" about the issue.
Letters have also been circulated to elected members of the council.
Existing family law facilities in the city centre are widely held to be completely inadequate for cases involving families and children and have been the subject of repeated criticism from support groups.
Due to their cramped conditions it is common for victims of domestic violence to find themselves in close proximity with the perpetrator.
According to Mr Ryan's letter, the new building is being purpose designed to provide facilities for victims of domestic violence, families experiencing marriage breakups and children in difficult family circumstances.
It is to be purpose-built to allow for the segregation of parties in difficult domestic disputes.
Mr Ryan told Mr Keegan that a reduction in the size of the site would "undermine the project and severely restrict the size of the complex".