Thursday 21 November 2019

Planning board keeps Central Bank's €22.5m Dublin site off land-hoarders' list due to security concerns

Chairman of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Ossian Smyth
Chairman of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Ossian Smyth

Michael Cogley

The Central Bank has been given a free pass for 'hoarding' land around its mint in south county Dublin due to security concerns.

The financial regulator's €22.5m plot in Sandyford was included on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county council's vacant site register as the local authority deemed the land suitable for housing.

If it remained on the register, the council would have netted €675,000 next year from the vacant levy. Should the site have remained unused until 2020, the regulator would have been liable to pay €1.57m a year to the council.

Its inclusion on the register was appealed to An Bord Pleanala on the grounds that there were significant security concerns around building residential units on the land. The Central Bank said the lands formed "an integral part" of its currency centre, which was "the only one its kind in the state". It also said that security was provided by gardai, army and security personnel at all times, and that its security measures were of "paramount" importance.

The planning board agreed, finding that the site had been used by the bank since the 1970s and that it was not guilty of land hoarding.

A spokesman for the bank said that it had engaged an architect design team to develop a masterplan for the site.

The chairman of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Ossian Smyth, said the judgment was a "mistake" and asked why additional housing near the mint would pose a security risk. "This is a site that could have housed 250 families," he said.

"I feel that the Central Bank is hiding behind a vague security pretext. If they want to continue to hoard residential land they should have to pay the tax. In a crisis, our state agencies should be leading by example."

Part of the lands were used as a sports facility for staff, including a tennis court. The bank said that it scrapped the facility as security measures increased on the site.

In its reasoning for placing it on the register in the first place, the council stated that the site did not have an "active use" and that it was served by public infrastructure and facilities.

The Central Bank said it would not facilitate any third-party connections to its piped water services as it would pose an "unacceptable security risk". It also said that any potential future resident could be at an increased risk as they may be mistaken for working at the facility.

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