RTE masterplan: 500 new homes in D4
Broadcaster plays property trump card to cut debt as row beckons
RTE believes that up 500 homes could be developed on a portion of its Donnybrook site currently being prepped for sale.
The scale of the development envisaged by the broadcaster is revealed in a masterplan submitted to Dublin City Council.
However, the plan has already run into a planning hurdle, with the National Transport Authority objecting to a new junction on the Stillorgan Road which would facilitate access to both RTE and the proposed residential development.
RTE plans to consolidate its offices on the south east of the campus, freeing up around 10 acres of land to the south west of the property for development.
The site at Donnybrook has long been viewed as the organisation's financial trump card and earlier this year, the board, chaired by Moya Doherty, voted to sell part of the site in early 2017. The sale of the land could net the broadcaster around €50m.
While RTE is currently forecasting a loss of up to €20m for 2016, the windfall would not be used to plug holes in the running costs of the organisation. Instead, the funds would be used for significant investment in digital infrastructure and other capital projects,
While the precise scale of the development has yet to be finalised, the masterplan states that the zone ear-marked for future development "has a capacity for in the region of 500 residential units".
This takes into account Dublin city planning guidelines, including height restrictions and 20pc of the land being set aside for public open space.
The document says that the size of the development is "indicative" at this stage and would be the subject of future planning permission.
The plan is likely to meet significant local opposition and the National Transport Authority (NTA) has already raised concerns about aspects of the plan.
Under the masterplan drawn up by architects Scott Tallon Walker, RTE's main entrance on Nutley Lane would be closed. A new large junction and plaza would be developed which would give access to a newly configured RTE campus, as well as the large-scale residential development. This junction has been described as "essential" by RTE.
The NTA said that the new junction "would have a level of negative impact upon all other road users". It described the Stillorgan Road as an important traffic artery to and from Dublin city centre and concluded that "there is insufficient basis to justify introduction of this junction".
However, the NTA may reconsider its position when RTE gives further detail of its plans for residential development on the site.
RTE was granted access to the site from Stillorgan Road under an RTE plan called Project 2025. However, changes to the technological and economic environment mean that RTE now envisions a scaled back campus, paving for the way for increased development.
Dublin City Council is seeking further information from RTE. Its roads and traffic division has previously signalled to RTE that "strong justification would be required for the proposal supported by detailed information regarding future proposals".
A spokesman for RTE said: "RTE continues to give serious consideration to the best commercial options for the disposal and development of land in Donnybrook. However, no final decisions have been made."
In preparation for development, RTE has already been given permission to move its creche from its current location to the historic Montrose House.
A review of RTE's financial position by NewEra, the state's corporate adviser, suggested that RTE should give serious consideration to the sale of some or all of the site. It found that 20pc of the site is undeveloped, a further 21pc comprises space for cars and offices,
Over the past two years, options were considered for the site including a complete sale and move to a new location. Advisors CBRE and KMPG drew up various options and the RTE board opted for a partial sale earlier this year.
Securing planning permission for the junction and residential development at Montrose will go only part way to solving the organisation's financial problems. New director general Dee Forbes and other senior management are currently drawing up wide-ranging cost-saving plans as RTE's deficit grows.
Forbes told the Medicon media and technology conference last week that advertising was volatile. She said she was taking "an open look" at the organisation and asking if parts of the business were "possible" for the future.
Sunday Indo Business