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Plans For St. Michael’s Estate Redevelopment Project Currently Stalled

Plans For St. Michael’s Estate Redevelopment Project Currently Stalled – Aidan Crowley provides us with an update on this development

Major plans for the redevelopment of the lands at the former St. Michael’s Estate, off Emmet Road, Inchicore, are currently stalled. Last October, Dublin City Council (DCC) lodged a planning application to build 578 social and cost-rental homes on the site which is adjacent to the newly-restored Richmond Barracks. The plans also provide for the construction of a community hub, a creche, a public library, a supermarket, five retail spaces, two cafes and a plaza.
First announced in July 2018, the redevelopment of the St. Michael’s Estate site is going to be DCC’s flagship public housing project, with a unique combination of the earmarked social and cost-rental housing. At the time, DCC officials announced that they had cancelled plans to privatise some of the housing on the site, following a backlash from local councillors and residents, who are anxious to ensure that all homes are affordable.

The plans for the new development, currently called Emmet Road, allow for the construction of buildings of three to seven storeys high, next to the historic former military facility and just across the Grand Canal from the Drimnagh Luas stop. The plans outline the construction of 110 studio apartments, 172 one-bedroom apartments, 250 two-bedroom apartments and 46 three-bedroom apartments.

Each home would include a terrace or a balcony, with the plans also providing for 106 car parking spaces and 1,285 bicycle spaces, according to the DCC report. Back in October, local councillors welcomed the fact that the planning application had been submitted. However, some queried whether the number of proposed studio apartments is too high and also, whether those types of homes are suitable for permanent housing.

According to local Sinn Fein Councillor, Maire Devine, living in one room is not ideal for people’s mental health: “We want living, breathing, space for people”.

Back in July 2018, the then Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Fine Gael TD, Eoghan Murphy, launched the policy document for the redevelopment of the St. Michael’s Estate site. Since then, all of the relevant documentation released by DCC, including council information sheets, announcements on the council’s official website and the reports for the extensive public consultation process, has indicated that all of the housing would be social and cost-rental.

So, local councillors and residents on the regeneration forum were taken aback at a meeting of the Inchicore Regeneration Consultative Forum, last September, when DCC’s housing manager, Coilin O’Reilly, indicated that 91 of the new homes could be built in a private rental capacity. O’Reilly explained, at the time, that this option was necessary to fund the community facilities for the redevelopment project.

The idea of the private rental homes cohort came “out of the blue” at the end of a lengthy consultation process, according to local Labour Party Councillor, Darragh Moriarty. “The news itself dropped like a bomb”, said Moriarty.
However, the council has performed a u-turn on this proposal, since then, saying that it will find an alternative method of funding these community amenities. All planning documents lodged with An Bord Pleanala, at the time, state that all of the proposed housing at Emmet Road, will be social and cost-rental.

These planning documents outline proposals for a development that provides “a mix which includes 24% social housing units (137 no. Units) and 76% cost-rental units (441 no. Units)”. Another adjacent council site has plans for 52 social homes for older persons, “giving a total mix of 30% social housing and 70% cost-rental across the two sites”, according to the documents submitted.

Cost-rental homes are those with rents that are set, to cover the cost of construction and maintenance of the housing. The rate of these rents is at least 25% lower than market rents and also offers tenants increased security, according to legislation introduced last year.

Moriarty says that he was relieved that council management has apparently shelved the privatisation plan: “It took a much quicker turn than I expected”. Council managers have indicated that they can source alternative funding for the community services, adds Moriarty: “They are confident they can make it up elsewhere”.

Since DCC announced the plans for the redevelopment of the former St. Michael’s Estate, almost five years ago, progress has been slow. Back in December 2020, a council spokesperson said: “We hope that the planning application will be ready in April 2021, it may take longer”. Subsequently, the application was due to be submitted in December 2021, but was pushed back to May 2022.

In July 2021, a council spokesperson explained that the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively impacted the timeline for the project and “it is a very big and complicated project that requires very significant consultation with the various stakeholders, including the local community”.

The current timeline for completion of the housing project is beyond 2026, according to DCC’s Housing Delivery Action Plan. Local councillors have welcomed the fact that the plans have finally been submitted: “I’m just pleased that we are getting this far and let’s get it done”, says Devine.

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