Spencer Dock - Democracy wins the day
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
People in Dublin's Docklands community were hailing as a victory for democracy this week the decision by An Bord Pleanála to block a major part of the £1.2 billion development plan for the area.
Following objections by residents, especially those in Mayor Street, New Wapping Street and Abercorn Road, who stood to be overshadowed by the massive development, An Bord Pleanála denied planning permission for the two hotels, nine office blocks and eleven apartment blocks, which constituted the bulk of the proposals. A consortium of business interests, led by the Treasury Holdings company, had backed the proposals and were accused of ignoring the concerns expressed by local residents.
Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke welcomed the An Bord Pleanála decision, including their permission for the building of a 2,500-seater national conference centre on the site - which was also welcomed by locals. But he was sceptical about the consortium's plans to revise their proposal.
The government should withhold any further financial sponsorship for the stalled development until the consortium engages in ``meaningful consultations'' with the local community, he said. ``Treasury Holdings, along with the other consortium investors, have received a body blow from An Bord Pleanála's decision. They must now be aware that it is not simply good enough to ignore the wishes of the established community in the Docklands and I urge them now to have a long, hard rethink of their approach.
``If the consortium plan to prepare a revised planning application, then it is up to them to engage in serious consultations with representatives of the local community.''
While the Sinn Féin councillor was critical of the government's role in sponsoring 30% of the project so far, it has emerged that EU directives might limit their sponsorship of the project. According to EU law, agreed after the consortium's first proposal, state sponsorship may be limited to 18%.
Christy Burke, however, called on the government to concentrate on funding the legal costs of local residents and representatives. ``The government should withold any further financial sponsorship for the project until the consortium has decided to engage in meaningful consultations with the local community,'' he said. ``The people already living there are the ones who stand to be most affected by the plans, yet the government has sponsored this consortium apparently without question, while failing to address the legal expenses incurred by local residents.''
Taoiseach and local TD Bertie Ahern has been accused of hypocrisy by residents in the media this week, due to his apparent u-turn on the issue. While Ahern had described the proposed development as a ``monstrosity'' earlier this year, he later wrote to An Bord Pleanála saying it was not his intention to influence their deliberations on the issue.