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Published in Construction on 07/08/2020

Housing Minister Backs Removal of Height Caps


CNI Editor reports

The new housing minister has backed scrapping building height restrictions in some areas and wants to see high-rise living in areas like Cork’s docklands.

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien told the Irish Examiner he agrees with his predecessor, Eoghan Murphy, who opposed the limits, calling them “arbitrary”.

The maximum height for buildings in Dublin city is currently 60 metres, but exceptions are allowed for taller structures in areas deemed Strategic Development Zones (SDZ). These zones are located in areas around Heuston and Connelly stations, as well as Dublin’s docklands and George’s Quay. Other local authorities have different height limits.

Mr O’Brien said removing the height limits would increase use of valuable space.

“My view is we should be going high and I think the last minister had raised or lifted restrictions on heights,” he said.

“My problem is I don’t see that happening in real terms and it’s still brought to my attention that there may be some blockages in the planning system in doing that.

“It’s height where it’s appropriate, so you’ve got to do two things. You look at the docklands; that whole area where the maximum that we have down there is 24 stories, it’s about using valuable space properly.

“There’s another element though, too, even in the older cities in Limerick and Cork and Dublin. No one is living above shops.

“It’s looking at the existing buildings that we have, and why aren’t people living right in the corridor of the city. You can walk around Dublin on a Sunday afternoon and there will be no one around.

“The streets have no one living above them in the shops, so that is something that I intend to change and see if we can make it easier for conversions and things like that.”

Mr O’Brien has since met the four Dublin council chief executives to discuss housing issues and height restrictions. He plans to meet executives from other councils this month.

“Cork has no restrictions on height and I want to see what’s happening with that, particularly with the docklands and other areas,” he said.

“We need to use our space better. We can’t continue with sprawl.”

Conor O’Connell, southern chair of the Construction Industry Federation, said  height restrictions are not one of the major factors for housing delivery in Cork.

“For the vast majority of our members and housebuilders involved in delivery and supply of residential developments, height restrictions are not an issue,” he said.

“In terms of overall residential supply certainly outside of Dublin height is not a significant issue in housing delivery.”