Housing Minister lobbied by developers for approval for Dublin high-rise buildings

By Juno McEnroe
Political Correspondent

Developers lobbied ministers to get approval for high-rise buildings in Dublin city, including attempts to overcome “red tape” in obtaining planning with authorities.

In one letter to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in January, developer Johnny Ronan complained about “restrictive height limits” on buildings in the Dublin Docklands area.

The lobbying correspondence sent to the minister on January 2 was signed 'Eoghan, please see attached. Happy New Year. Regards, Johnny.”

Mr Ronan said that despite new urban building height guidelines for Dublin, there was a “reluctance” by the city council to follow these for the Docklands.

The letter states: “Clearly it would be contrary to the achievement of important government planning objectives if development in one of the most important development areas in the state, the Dublin Docklands SDZ area, is held back by the non-application of this important initiative in government policy or that the area is developed at unsustainable low heights and densities as in the current planning scheme, contrary to government policy.”

Mr Ronan wanted to discuss the matter with Mr Murphy and his officials, adding: “We need you to help cut through the bureaucracy, red tape and unnecessary delays.”

The correspondence was among several letters from developers lobbying ministers over planning and released under Freedom of Information to Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan.

She warned in the Dáil that a decision by the housing minister last December to lift restrictions on building heights in Dublin city helped “open a space for developers whose Celtic Tiger excesses and irresponsibility had drastic consequences in many areas, including housing”.

She noted Mr Ronan's company had originally been refused planning for a tall building on Tara Street.

But this 22-storey complex - now approved - will be the tallest in the city.

Ms O'Sullivan contended that a review of height guidelines in Dublin, while supposedly for housing, was in fact for high-rise offices, commercial space and hotels.

“Well-established communities in the docklands area of North Wall are being ignored and treated with contempt. They are overshadowed and are now facing a 22-storey office block that is practically in their back gardens," the Dublin Central TD said.

“What is happening involves giving away control of an important part of the city - North Lotts and South Lotts - to developers.

We will be left with uninspiring glass cages and no communities, houses or homes.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said developments must go through the necessary planning screening process.

Nonetheless, he favours high-rise development, in line with major American cities.

“I support the policy of us going higher in our cities, not just in Dublin but also in the Tivoli docklands in the centre of Cork and the city centres of Limerick and Galway.

"Rather than growing out and continuing to sprawl, our cities should grow up.

"That is not just for housing. It also applies to office buildings, public buildings and every type of building we build," he said.

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