IDA wants taller docklands buildings

IDA Ireland is at odds with Dublin City Council over proposed restrictions to limit the height of skyscrapers in a special economic zone planned for the city’s docklands.

In a recent submission to the council about future development of the 66-acre zone, comprising Grand Canal Dock on the south bank of the Liffey and North Lotts on the opposite side, the IDA urged the council to show more “flexibility” or Dublin risked losing out on foreign direct investment to competing cities.

The IDA fears that guidelines from council about building heights are “overly prescriptive and restrictive” and wants the development of high-rise office complexes to be “as unconstrained as possible”.

It has also asked the council, which wants a mix of residential and commercial development in the area, to consider temporarily restricting the development of new apartments. It said priority should first be given to economic and commercial development.

The IDA submission was made as part of a public consultation following the government’s decision to designate the North Lotts/Grand Canal Dock area a strategic development zone (SDZ). Under planning laws, development within such a zone is fast-tracked and cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála. The council voted last month to designate North Lotts/Grand Canal a strategic development zone.

The zone is already home to a number of large-scale commercial developments built under normal planning rules.

The council has said in some areas within the zone it may accept buildings up to 60m in height, similar to Liberty Hall. It identified eight storeys as a general guideline across the zone, but it has proposed allowing buildings of 10 or 12 storeys in height around Spencer Dock.

“The SDZ will be competing with other international locations including London [and] some of the main German cities for mobile investment. Dublin and this area must maintain its competitiveness and this must be reflected in the physical development of the SDZ area,” the IDA said.

The IDA believes the council’s vision for large sections of the zone envisages buildings that are too narrow, and with too small a footprint to attract large-scale FDI projects, such as global or European headquarter buildings. Last month, the agency warned that Dublin was in danger of a shortage of buildings to attract multinationals. The issue was debated at a Cabinet meeting last month.

In a statement to The Irish Times, an IDA spokesman said: “We don’t believe a limit of five or six storeys [in some areas] should be set in stone. For a signature building, we are of the view that the planning authorities should take a flexible approach.”