Dublin City Councillors risked setting O'Devaney build back 10 years, says housing chief Brendan Kenny

Dublin City Council’s housing chief Brendan Kenny has accused some councillors of almost “jeopardising” the O’Devaney Gardens project and setting it back a decade – as the council finally signed a development agreement with Bartra Capital.

Last month, councillors voted in favour of a deal which 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 for it. The November vote saw protesters storm the council chamber with some shouting “shame on you” at councillors who voted in favour of the development.

Earlier this month, an attempt to have the motion rescinded was defeated by 35 votes to 22, with Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and some independents in favour of rescinding.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny said the next step is for the plans to go to An Bord Pleanála.

“We signed the development agreement on Friday with the developer and the developer is now talking to our planners about getting his application into an Bord Pleanála, so we’re happy with that,” Mr Kenny said.

  • Read more: O’Devaney Gardens Q&A: How did the dispute arise, how affordable are the homes and what did councillors do?

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 and this was for 800 houses right smack in the city centre”.

Among the concerns were 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 by councillors, 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 and the point we kept making, which I’m not sure whether councillors believed it or accepted, was it’d be five years before we got back to the stage we’re at now and 10 years before house were actually built,” 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.

“I could see their concerns, I could see their views on it, but the reality is that the particular model and particular scheme was born back in 2013-14 so there was a different world, there was no money. So, the idea was we had to try and get some way of building by tapping into the value of the land,” he added.

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

And it will then take a further three years before the units will be ready to live in, Mr Kenny said.

He added that had a different plan been pursued on the back of objections from councillors, everything that has been done up till 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 and there’s 56 houses at the moment up there that will be ready for occupation in May and that would mean those people would be looking out on a derelict site for the next 10 years,” he said.

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