An article on the Dublin City Development Plan by Cieran Perry appeared in the
June – July issue of The Village magazine. Here is the full length version of the article :

The last issue of Village carried an article on the current draft Dublin City Development Plan and the process of formulating this extremely important document. The fact that Village publicised such an important process was positive but the naivety of the authors lessened the impact. The very first two lines highlighted this naivety.
There was no rumpus within Fine Gael or Labour when they realised that both parties had voted for the draft Development Plan. There is rarely a rumpus within any party on Dublin City Council over any issue simply because the vast majority of issues are already agreed prior to presentation to the actual City Council meeting.
Dublin City Council officials meet the leaders of the various parties to agree any contentious issues. Hence, when the councilors vote on something as serious as the City Development Plan they have already been primed to agree the outcome. Proof of this can be seen in the result of the voting even after I brought many of the contentious issues to the attention of all the councilors during the initial debate on the draft Development Plan. Having been schooled by a mixture of Gramsciesque “organic intellectuals” within the communities, individuals from An Taisce and community friendly planners I highlighted the many contradictions between the draft Development Plan and sustainable planning. This wasn’t difficult given that the 6 year lifespan of this Development Plan will most likely see a serious reduction in building and development in the city so it is illogical that the current plan caters for even greater heights and densities than the previous plan which was produced during an economic boom.

Further evidence of the naivety of the article is the reference to amazement that Fianna Fail voted against the draft Development Plan. Fianna Fail, a party which has an umbilical cord relationship with the milieu of the developer class now has the luxury of offering itself as radical vocal opposition on Dublin City Council, ironically due to its lack of success in the local elections. While Fianna Fail in Government slashes services and facilities in working class communities, their comrades in Fianna Fail on Dublin City Council can oppose cuts in the Council budget for those same areas.

The real opposition to the potential disaster of this proposed City Development Plan is based within communities themselves.
The City Development Plan is an extremely complex document and would require a concerted attempt to understand the intricacies of this overtly technical plan. The necessity of such technical jargon, which is supposedly aimed at your average Dubliner, is surely the first hint that all might not be as it seems.

The current City Manager, John Tierney, was behind the infamous “Maximizing the City’s Potential” document which was basically a blueprint for high rise across Dublin. City Council officials were forced to back down on this document because of the strength of objections from community groups and residents associations. These same officials are now using the opportunity of the Development Plan to push their plans through. They have been very successful so far and unless communities use this final opportunity to counter their high rise strategy, we will find that developers will have a green light to throw up high rise and super high rise in areas which weren’t designed for and cannot sustain this type of intrusive development.

One simple fact regarding the proposed Development Plan which must be highlighted is the ludicrous situation where 8 storeys within the City Centre and 6 Storeys in the suburbs will now be considered low rise and acceptable to planners. Dublin will be forever changed and changed for the worse.

Increased densities on sites will increase the property value. City councillors will then be unable to revert to the original densities in any subsequent development plan because of the risk of been sued by a developer for the resulting fall in the value of the land. The Carmelite Order site in Ballinter is an example of this. The Carmelites have threatened Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council with legal action if the councils new Development Plan re-zones the land. The Carmelites claim that the rezoning would devalue the property because it would “significantly diminish the development potential” of the lands.

The lack of interest of the majority of councilors in the draft Development Plan and their subsequent actions doesn’t bode well for any future dealings on properties now under the remit of NAMA. If the Government finds itself under pressure to develop the lands under control of NAMA we can be quite certain that the existing land zonings will not inhibit them.
We have seen the Strategic Infrastructure Act introduced in 2006 to bypass the standard planning process in “special” cases which are deemed too important to delay. To witness the dangers of fast track planning we only have to look at the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. The DDDA had greater planning powers than Dublin City Council and essentially left total control of the planning process in the hands of those requiring planning permissions. The DDDA’s section 25 planning powers were draconian, with no mechanism for objectors to have a say and no right of appeal. Local residents, who would be most affected by proposed developments were excluded from any meaningful involvement in the process.
The example of the DDDA should leave us fearful. DDDA was a microcosm of the corruption in our political system. The board of the DDDA contained bankers, developers and political cronies of the Government parties’ .We had the almost comical situation of the bankers on the DDDA board lending huge sums of money to developers who were receiving planning permission from the same DDDA board. To cap it all, as their blatent conflicts of interest went unchecked, their behaviour got worse. Eventually, this statutory body itself began to engage in land speculation, in partnership with the very same bankers and developers, using taxpayer’s money. Amongst the most controversial locations in the Docklands were Spencer Dock and the now infamous Glass Bottle Company site. These lands were state owned, under the control of C.I.E. and Dublin Port respectively. If these development lands end up under the remit of NAMA, the tax payer will be basically paying for land we already own. Or in the case of the Glass Bottle site, paying out a second time for land we owned in the first place. ,

While it is fashionable to condemn the DDDA in the current climate we must remember that over the last decade very few were willing to speak out, including the opposition politicians who are now most vocal. The local community has been raising these concerns for almost as long as the authority has existed. Concerned residents attacked the unfairness and inherent dangers of the fast track process and were not shy to highlight the party political influence and cronyism. The links between Seanie Fitzpatrick, Lar Bradshaw, Anglo Irish and the DDDA which are common knowledge now were first raised by local residents in 2004. At the request of Dockland residents, the late Tony Gregory TD raised the matter of Bradshaws and Fitzpatricks conflict of interest in the Dail. Unsurprisingly, the then Minister of the Environment, (with ultimate responsibility over the DDDA), Dick Roche gave assurances that there was no problem and that there were measures in place to ensure nothing untoward could happen!
This was two years before the Glass Bottle deal took place. If the concerns raised by residents were treated seriously, and with respect, perhaps the DDDA would not have crashed and burned as badly as it did, and maybe the Anglo Irish disaster, that has dragged the whole country down could have been averted.

A leopard doesn’t change its spots, they say, and the developers, the bankers and their party political puppets haven’t changed. Dublin City Council officials are still pushing the developer led policies that have proven to be such a disaster. The relentless promoting of an unsustainable high rise/ high density agenda, against the wishes of the cities citizens, only serves the interests of the same greedy minority that Anglo Irish and the DDDA facilitated – those that have brought this country to its knees.

The proposed City Development Plan, as approved by a majority of the political parties on the council endorses the DCC management in promoting the interests of property developers and speculators over that of the city and its citizens.

In the case of the DDDA the community was accurate in its prediction and correct in its stance. Unfortunately, not enough attention was paid to what they were saying. Will history repeat itself? In making a final decision on the City Development Plan the members of the council have a choice – side with the Management and continue with policies that have already failed, or listen to the community, and do the right thing.