Friday 17 January 2020

Residents feel under siege by city's 'supersize' developments

The capital's housing crisis means more high-density developments in sought-after locations will be built, writes Mark O'Regan

'Residents are pooling their expertise, including legal and other'. Photo: PA
'Residents are pooling their expertise, including legal and other'. Photo: PA

Mark O'Regan

House prices in one of Dublin's most salubrious suburbs could take an unexpected dip if a number of new 'supersize' developments get the go-ahead.

And there are fears it could signal the arrival of further 'high density' developments in other desirable locations.

Planning experts warn a critical lack of green space means "reaching for the sky" is now the only option for some developers as the capital's housing crisis continues to escalate. They say the "name of the game" now, in terms of urban planning, is the battle to achieve increased density.

But sources also admit expensive suburban houses in the shadow of high-rise developments could lose some of their value.

In some of Dublin's more sought-after locations a drop in the selling price could be in the region of €100,000.

Residents in the Carrickmines and Foxrock area held an emergency meeting this week, where they warned the area is facing "an existential threat" because of a range of proposed developments.

These include a 143-bed nursing home, plus a number of high-density apartments and housing complexes.

Residents are concerned this will result in a range of knock-on issues, such as worsening traffic problems, loss of the "visual appeal and ambiance of an area" as well as the destruction of its essential heritage.

Meanwhile, there are now fears these latest proposals could signal what will be "open season" in other desirable locations in the capital.

Currently, some of the densest parts of Dublin city are among the most sought-after by house buyers.

In addition to the highly- prized coastal strip running from Malahide to Greystones, existing high-density areas such as Ranelagh, Rathmines and Donnybrook on the south side, and Glasnevin and Phibsborough on the north side, are particularly tempting for developers and builders.

At the height of the Celtic Tiger, Foxrock was one of the most appealing addresses for developers due to its stock of period houses on large plots of land. Builders saw the area as ideal for redevelopment - now the upswing in the economy has peaked interest in the environs of Foxrock village once again.

But a number of local residents believe they now feel "under siege".

The mature suburb was made an architectural conservation area (ACA) about 10 years ago.

However, latest figures confirm there is a renewed appetite for building in the area. There are currently 21 sites either seeking development permission, being currently developed, or else being sold as development 'opportunities'. And others are in the pipeline.

Overall, there are only six ACAs under the ambit of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council: Blackrock, Killiney, Dalkey, Foxrock, parts of Monksktown/Dun Laoghaire, and pockets elsewhere in Sandyford. However, the sheer scale and volume of "unprecedented" developments in Foxrock has sparked fury among locals. At the specially convened town hall meeting this week, hundreds of residents were told the area is now being "targeted" by developers for "intensive development".

It was claimed this will cause "irreversible and irreparable change to the whole area". Among the more contentious schemes is an 89,000sq ft commercial nursing home planned for the top of Brighton Road/Claremont Road. Housing 143 bedrooms, it will be one of the largest complexes of its kind in the country. Local residents argue the land had been specifically zoned for residential use.

They also point out the development will be situated between two listed buildings.

Another scheme, Weaver's Hall, Plunkett Avenue, off Westminster Road, spans a massive 75,000sq ft, comprising 50 apartments up to four storeys high, and one house. There's also a provision for 93 car spaces. The development would generate well over 350 extra car journeys a day, according to the residents' group.

They also claim construction will risk diversion of a river flowing beneath the structure and possibly cause "local flooding".

One of the city's most upmarket addresses, Westminster Road, is located only a few minutes' walk from Foxrock Village, and is well known for its selection of fashionable cafes and exclusive boutiques.

There are also plans for eight, four-storey townhouses at Clonbur, in the heart of Foxrock village. Located in the "middle" of an ACA, locals stress no other residential property "comes close in height" compared to this structure. It is claimed the lasting damage to both trees and the visual amenity will be "immense".

The council has turned down an application to build eight, three-storey maisonettes at Carrigmore, Golf Lane, off Torquay Road, but the decision is being appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

The projects will cause "instant and severe" traffic problems, as well as "buckle" the existing infrastructure, say the locals.

In response to this "existential crisis", residents are pooling their individual expertise, including legal and other skills, in preparing detailed objections to the proposed projects. They now fear the "floodgates could be opened to large-scale construction".

They also insist these schemes may lead to the colonisation of back-land areas for high-density schemes of apartments and townhouses.

However, as the shortage of green space becomes more acute in the capital, experts say "high density and building higher" will become more prevalent.

From a planning perspective, this approach represents a more efficient use of land.

Ben Thompson, of Churches Estate Agent in Blackrock, said property prices could be hit among those living in the immediate vicinity of certain developments.

"That's a legitimate concern they have. I don't know how much sway that holds with the councils these days; sometimes it will sometimes it won't.

''I don't know if you can successfully challenge on the adverse value of the house. If I was living there I would be fighting tooth and nail as well... I don't blame them."

He also pointed out local councils are "desperate" for more high-density developments. "It's tough on the people who get affected - but the general consensus at the moment seems to be - just get in as much as you can."

Sunday Independent

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