Council challenged on “anti-social” height limits

One Heuston South Quarter in one of the areas planned for high-rise

Dublin City councillors were asked on Tuesday night if they intend to make the city a mausoleum with “anti-socially” low building height limits.

Challenging his fellow councillors on the city’s Draft City Development Plan, Cllr Bill Tormey (FG), also asked if they wanted to make Dublin a mausoleum.

After making similar comments at a Dublin City Council meeting, Tormey wrote yesterday: “Do [councillors] intend to fossilise the city into a theme park for perambulating geriatrics post work and the hustle and bustle of productive life? Make Dublin a mausoleum for the Ulysses Era where James Joyce could wander around his theme park forever.”

The council voted for a normal maximum height of six storeys for residential and seven storeys for offices (19m – 28m) in the inner city, and four storeys (13m – 16m) for both offices and residential in the outer city.

Areas within 500m from Dart, Metro North and other train stations will be defined as rail hubs. The heights for these areas will be set at six storeys (19m – 24m) for both offices and residential.

Mid-rise is to be set as up to 16 storeys for residential and 12 storeys for offices, or up to 50m. The mid-rise areas are Phibsborough, Grangegorman, the Digital Hub, the North Fringe, Clonshaugh Industrial Estate, Ballymun, Pelletstown, Park West, Cherry Orchard and the Naas Road. Above 50m is defined as high-rise, includes an area in the Docklands, areas around Connolly and Heuston stations, and George’s Quay.

However, all areas defined as mid or high rise are to remain low rise until a Local Area Plan is put in place which will determine the maximum height of buildings. The process of Local Area Plans is slow with heavy influence from councillors.

Voting on what was seen as a comprise plan on heights, 31 councillors voted for the proposals, 12 against and one abstained.

Meanwhile, the majority of councillors voted against a motion which wanted the rail hub heights to be reduced from six to five storeys.

Cllr Brid Smith (People Before Profit Alliance) said the development plan should be about people, not buildings. Cllr Deirdre Heney (FF) claimed that people think that seven storeys is high rise.

Heney said, “We are living in a low rise city. Nobody at any residents’ association meeting I have ever attended consider seven storeys low rise, they consider seven storeys high rise. And, whether the city manager likes it or not, the people in Dublin do not want to live in a high rise city. People in Dublin like low rise.”

She said she has serious concern over proposals for 16 storeys at areas like the North Fringe and Clonshaugh Industrial Estate.

Meanwhile, Cllr Vincent Jackson (Independent) accused some councillors of being parochial, and not strategic for Dublin.

Cllr Dessie John Ellis (Sinn Fein) noted that heights have hardly changed in 100 years, and that Georgian buildings in the inner city are five storeys high. Ellis said, “We have only gone up one and two storeys effectively in over 100 years. It’s not a huge leap by any stretch of the imagination.”

Cllr Andrew Montague (Labour) said people commuting long distances into Dublin is not the future. He added that a real debate about quality is being missed due to focus on height.

Tormey said as a councillor he is a developer and wants to encourage industry, jobs and high quality of living. He says his objective is to advocate for the whole country not for a narrow sectional interest.

He added: “Are we happy to formulate an anti-social plan to condemn citizens to hours of commuting per day at huge expense and waste of personal and family time? Do we want the suburbs to be Navan, Mullingar, Drogheda and Dundalk? None of these people has any direct influence on our selfish, closed, insular decisions because they do not have a vote in elections or have a voice in residents’

All parts of the draft development plan voted on which differ from the previous version will be put out for a second round of public consultation.

The video record of the debate can currently be found, look under recent webcasts and titled “Special Meeting of City Council – Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011 – 2017 – Tuesday 27th July 2010” and then click on index point “17.6 Building Height in a Sustainable City.”

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