Docklands & The Community

Before the establishment of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority in 1997 the local communities of North Wall and East Wall felt  alienated from the regeneration process that  surrounded them. After decades of unemployment and hardship following the decline of the docking industry they had learned not to expect much in the way of investment into their beleaguered area. When the plans for the IFSC were announced in the late 1980s they treated them with wariness and scepticism. Although the CHDDA was one of the first State organisations to impose a preferential employment policy for locals into the construction contracts, the operation of this policy angered some locals who considered that many employed were not genuinely from the area at all.

Relations between the Custom House Dock Development Authority and the community reached a nadir when a memo was leaked from the Minister for the Environment & Local Government of the time, Padraig Flynn, stating his intention to demolish  the Sherriff Street Flats and rehouse the residents elsewhere. Instantly the strong community spirit that already existed galvanised itself further to fight what the locals saw as a serious threat to their community.

Demonstrations ensued leaving the Department with no option but to give the locals a choice between inner suburban  housing, other houses under construction in the immediate vicinity or new ones being built on the northern section of the Sherriff Street site. The majority of locals elected to stay and be re-housed within the Area. Clearly this significant and well organised local population could not be ignored and would need to be integrated fully into any plans for the future of the area.

1997 - Present Day
This is exactly what the Dublin Docklands Area Master Plan 1997, which was essentially the manifesto of the newly established Dublin Docklands Development Authority, did.  It incorporated socio-economic issues and community-based concerns into the redevelopment equation. Community leaders were now given representation on the DDDA's council, giving the community a real say in directing investment into the area.

Spencer Dock
The DDDA's handling of Treasury Holding's proposals for the Spencer Dock area of the North Lotts typified this rebalancing of power. The Spencer Dock Plan was in effect the biggest planning application ever lodged in Ireland. It involved a huge complex of skyscraping office blocks, centred on a landmark National Conference Centre, all designed by the top Irish emigre architect Kevin Roche of internationally reknowned Roche-Dinkeloo architects.

The massive scale of this £1.2 billion development would have dwarfed all other buildings in the area and would have overshadowed many locals' homes.  The community made its opposition known through demonstrations and more importantly on the council of the DDDA. The DDDA made it clear that it would never prepare a Scheme which would meet the aspirations of the development consortium for their site. Eventually, An Bord Pleanala (The Planning Board) refused permission for all the scheme except the NCC, much to the relief of the local community.

Education and Employment are other areas in which local interests are considered. The DDDA has initiated many different projects focusing on improving the education and economic prospects of people in the Docklands Area. Projects such as Parents in Education, the Schools Job Placement Programme and the DDDA/Reuters Third Level Scholarship have helped the people of Docklands fulfil their true potential. The arrival of the National College of Ireland Campus is a significant boost as 10% of all places are reserved for Docklands residents.

Social Housing Scheme
The key objective of this scheme is to allow the existing community to continue to live in Docklands and enjoy the social and economic regeneration of the Master Plan project. The provision of a wide range of new housing options are needed in the area, including both local authority and affordable housing, in order to achieve a good social mix.

It is for this reason that the DDDA requires that 20% of all new units are social and affordable housing. This is likely to represent approximately 2,200 homes by completion of regeneration. A good example of this scheme can be found in the Clarion Quay development designed by Urban Projects, where 37 units are managed by Cluid Housing Association. This is the first combined market and housing association development in the inner city with all the apartments being designed to the highest standard, enjoying dual aspect over landscaped gardens. Some of the apartments are duplex which gives families the benefits of a traditional house in a 21st century setting.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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