herald

Wednesday 22 January 2020

'Battle over O'Devaney nearly set project back decade' - housing boss

Housing chief Brendan Kenny
Housing chief Brendan Kenny

Dublin City Council's housing chief Brendan Kenny has accused some local councillors of almost "jeopardising" the O'Devaney Gardens project and setting it back a decade.

It comes as the council finally signed a development agreement with Bartra Capital.

Last month, councillors voted in favour of a deal that will see more than 800 homes built on the site close to the Phoenix Park in Dublin 7.

A vote in October was shelved after it became clear there would be insufficient support.

The November vote saw protesters storm the council chamber, with some shouting "shame on you" at councillors who voted in favour.

Earlier this month, an attempt to have the motion rescinded was defeated by 35 votes to 22, with Sinn Fein, People Before Profit and some Independents for rescinding.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Kenny said the next step is for the plans to go to An Bord Pleanala.

"We signed the development agreement on Friday," he said.

The housing boss said the initial plan was approved by the council in January 2017 and "there was huge frustration" among council management that "we had such a battle, such a war to get it through, to get it over the line... for 800 houses right smack in the city centre".

Concerns

Among the concerns was the cost of affordable units which was earmarked to be as high as €420,000, with developer Bartra initially set to make a profit of around €67m for the 50pc privately-sold units.

This was along with fears the council was giving up prime city centre land.

However, a new deal will see the top price for affordable units come in at €310,000 and Bartra said it would offer 30pc of the private homes for sale to an Approved Housing Body (AHB) to be used for a cost rental scheme.

Had the deal been quashed it would have set the project back a decade, Mr Kenny said.

"We were puzzled as to how councillors were close to jeopardising that project," he said.

"We were amazed that it had to be such a battle.

"It became political, we kept making the point that we weren't selling the land, we're not selling the land, we're not selling any part of it.

"The transfer of title was part of the public procurement process, but it was very, very frustrating that we had to fight so hard to get it over the line."

If the development is approved by An Bord Pleanala, ground could be broken on the site by this time next year.

It will then take a further three years before the units will be ready to live in, he said.

Mr Kenny added that had a different plan been pursued on the back of objections, everything that has been done up until now would have to be abandoned.

"It would be five years before we get to the stage we're at and 10 years before houses will be built," he said.

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