Construction of a seven-storey office block in Dublin city centre has been refused permission amid fears it would “significantly compromise” the potential development of Dart Underground.
This is despite the rail project having been shelved by the Government.
The owners of the site on Sandwith Street, just off Pearse Street, will now face vacant-site levies of almost €100,000 next year, and more than €200,000 the following year, for failing to develop their inner-city site.
Rails Investment Ltd, a Maltese-registered company, had sought permission last year to demolish a 1930s warehouse it bought in 2016 on Sandwith Street and replace it with offices.
The site was designated a decade ago as one of the main stations for the €4.5 billion Dart Underground project, but Irish Rail never bought the land because, it said, it did not have government funding for the line.
In 2010 Irish Rail applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission for the 7.6km rail line to link Heuston Station to the Dart line, with underground stations at Spencer Dock, Pearse Station, St Stephen’s Green, Christ Church and Heuston,
In November 2011 the project was shelved by the Fine Gael-Labour government.
The following month, An Bord Pleanála granted the railway order to construct the line and stations and acquire property necessary for the project. However, Irish Rail did not go ahead with any acquisitions, because of the government decision.
In late 2015 Irish Rail reviewed the scheme and said a “lower-cost solution” could be achieved by ending the tunnel at Heuston Station and reducing the number of stations along the line, although Pearse station remained an integral part of the scheme.
The underground, while included in the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, was not included in the 10-year National Development Plan published earlier this year.
However, Irish Rail urged the planning board not to grant permission for the office development.
It said the lands were “necessary” for the construction of an underground station and “the integrity of the Dart Underground will be significantly compromised as it will preclude the future construction of the Dart Underground station beneath the site.”
The board’s inspector, Paul Caprani, said while it was “unreasonable” to hold up development for a “undefined and prolonged period of time on the grounds that it may or may not have implications for any underground station at Pearse Street. It is likewise inappropriate that a development would be permitted to proceed where it may have profound implications for the provision of a strategic underground station at Pearse Street.”
Although the office development cannot now go ahead, Rails Investment is still facing hundreds of thousands of vacant site levies for failing to develop the site. The site was last July added to Dublin City Council’s Register of Vacant sites, which allows local authorities to impose a levy on property owners who fail to develop prime land. The levy is set at 3 per cent of the value of the land for this year and 7 per cent for subsequent years. The Sandwith Street site had been valued at €3.1 million.
The company appealed its listing on the register to An Bord Pleanála, but the board last November upheld the council’s decision.