Dublin City should build on parking, not parks

— City manager wants to use open space for housing while State land left disused.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Owen Keegan, the CEO of Dublin City Council, has suggested building housing on lands zoned as ‘amenity/open space’ — but his idea of building on parks and other green space has gone down like a lead balloon.

The Irish Times reported today that Keegan said that quality open space was an essential component of cities, but that “there are too many examples of amenity/open space land in the city council area that quite frankly do not offer significant amenity value”.

This is one of a number of reasons IrishCycle.com is sick to death outlining how that overall Dublin is not low density compared to other EU cities of a similar size (see here and here for our previous coverage on this). We supporthigher density but it’s important to understand where Dublin is and how cities with slightly lower density provide better transport and other services.

Keegan said that 25% of land in Dublin City is zoned for “amenity/open space” but the unseen context is that a large chunk of that 25% includes the Phoenix Park (nationally protected), Bull Island, other beaches, golf clubs, sports clubs, stadiums, large grave yards, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, etc. Basically: Much of the 25% is not just open space.

In that context, Amsterdam’s density is all the more impressive because it excludes one of the city’s major open spaces — their well-used canals and other waterways. In Dutch cites, a large percentage of residential streets are more livable places, and even many larger roads and streets are nicer places to be than the equivalent streets in Dublin.

Making places more livable is vital for the long-term in making cities places where more people want to live and bring up families. If Dublin wants higher density, it needs to improve and add to the quality and maintenance of public spaces, not reduce open space needlessly.

Maybe Keegan is somewhat right. Maybe there’s a few spots of open space which would be better used as housing. But without coming out with a plan for such, what Keegan said was silly when there’s vast amounts of land-hording taking place.

The land-hording includes vacant and derelict sites, including that which has been mapped by DublinInQuirer.com. There’s vast tracks of land with planning permission been held, but the state is just as bad by not developing underused sites, such as central bus depots.

The low density Dublin Industrial Estate, at the northern end of Luas Cross City and also served by Commuter rail, is a massive 55 ha but a suggestion of making it into a mixed use developed zone was rejected by Keegan.

The Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann bus depots around Broadstone sit on nearly 10 hectares (ha) of land — which is less than 1km from O’Connell Street and it will have its own Luas tram stop from next month. Broadstone is zoned for mixed use. Yet, in a housing crisis, there’s no movement to develop this land which is owned by the State via CIE.

While some short-term central bus storage is needed, Broadstone with nearly 10 ha and 5 other central depots with between 1 and 3 ha each, is a poor use of land in or near the centre of a city. Housing is better use than bus parking.

A little less central but still less than 5km from O’Connell Bridge is Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works, a massive 29 ha site which is again owned by CIE. The State’s transport holding company previously has plan to develop the site — but this was wrong classed as a “Celtic Tiger” project. It’s in fact a near-perfect site to develop — it’s close to the city centre and at the mouth of the planned eastern portal of the now stalled Dart Underground.

CIE seem to be pushing ahead and developing land around Connolly station (which is mostly car parking) but there’s little in the way of plans for Heuston station where the car park alone is 1.25 ha and a disused railway sidings in Cabra amounts to nearly 4 ha.

Meanwhile, Cathal Brugha Barracks at around 15 ha is sited just 1km south of St Stephen’s Green. Does the army really need near 15 ha in central Dublin?

Dublin City University on the north side of the city and University College Dublin (just south of the city council’s boundary) both have hectares of mostly surface car parking when there’s a student housing crisis which is a negative feedback into the general housing crisis. Incidentally, there’s around 20 ha of farm land between DCU and the city centre, but this is already zoned for housing.

This article is focused on State-owned land, where land-hording should not be an issue. But there’s many private examples too.

A prime example is Ikea Dublin. Ikea has 4.8 ha of open-air car parking (not including what’s under the store). We could argue the pros and cons of this parking in terms of land use generally, but a large chunk of it (around 1.65 ha) has remained empty since the store opened. That’s just completely wasted, unproductive land.

If it’s not already clear by now: Dublin does not have a problem with the availability of land and the State owns much of the disused and underused land in the city.

IMAGE: DublinInQuirer.com’s image (click on image) highlights the volume of disused land around Dublin City.


  1. Who’s fault is it that amenity / open space does not offer significant amenity value in Dublin City? – last time I checked it was generally the Council. Would fixing problems with existing open spaces not be better in the public interest than getting rid of them altogether? In a conversation about wasted city space we should also also be talking about the thousands of private car parking spaces the civil service provides for its staff in the city centre.

  2. The amount of green space around Dublin is one of the best things about the city. It should not take a genius to see that getting rid of civic amenities so you can add more people is not a clever solution.

    The sea of car parking around buildings like Ikea and the Blanchardstown Centre does seem wasteful. You would think putting up a multistory car park and building some apartment buildings for a few tens of millions would appeal to the owners. Of course the authorities will find it easier to build on space they already own.

  3. Elm Park, Clontarf, and Milltown: 3 massive golf clubs within 5km of the City Centre. 3 private clubs taking up space that could house 20 or 30 thousand people. Each exempt from property taxes and rates, and each is located DIRECTLY beside DART and Luas lines, and QBCs. This is the sort of junk greenspace that should be built on, not public neighbourhood parks.

  4. The main problem with cars in Dublin – and in Ireland generally – is that it’s one driver in one car 99% of the time. Put a hefty tax on any car with less than four people in it; make bus lanes continuous so buses can flow freely through city and suburbs, build a network of safe, bollard-protected cycleways and the cars will cease to be a problem.

    Of course these sprawling car parks should be built on. Like Japan, which solved this problem years ago, all parking (including private parking in driveways) should be multistorey. There should be no street parking at all.


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