20 March 2017

by Cllr Joe Costello

The following oral submission was made by Joe Costello, Labour Party Spokesperson on Urban Renewal to the An Bord Pleanála hearing on Clerys Planing appeal (3442/16).

In my observations to Dublin City Council Planning Department on the Clerys application I referred to two concerns:

  1. Overdevelopment of Clery’s Building
  2. The vision of the scheme of Special Planning control (2016) for O’Connell Street and the North Inner City Community


  1. 1.     Over-Development of the Clerys Site and its curtilage: I am extremely

concerned that the proposed development of the site would constitute over-development and interfere with the iconic character of the  Clery’s building which is a protected structure; it appears is visually obtrusive, impacting negatively on the GPO, a national monument. There is no justification for new offices to be constructed on the site as a multitude of office accommodation is being constructed in the nearby Docklands and O’Connell Street needs to retain and maximise its retail heritage and character.

  1. 2.     The Special Planning Scheme sets out the following vision: “To re-establish

O’Connell Street and environs as a place of importance in the social and cultural life of citizens and visitors, where buildings and their uses reflect a civic dignity and pride and property owners and occupiers acknowledge their obligations as stakeholders and workers are assured fair working conditions in this area of special significance to the Irish Nation”.

This vision is totally contrary to the shenanigans of the Natrium acquisition of the property from Gordon Bros resulting in the loss of the jobs of the Clery’s entire staff of 130 and the 330 concession staff with the state picking up the bill for redundancy.

The division of Clery’s into two legal entities allowed the valuable property to be separated from the unprofitable business operation leaving the workforce high and dry and enabled the new owners to walk away without paying a cent to the sacked workforce.  This exploitation of a loyal workforce is morally wrong and the behaviour is totally contrary to the vision expressed in the Scheme of Special Planning Control for O’Connell Street (2016).

The planning application by OCS Properties Ltd. before us today provides the ideal opportunity to ensure that the provisions and spirit of the Scheme of Special Planning Control is implemented through the conditioning of the planning permission. 

Already DCC has taken a step in the right direction by introducing a condition on local employment during the construction phase in its planning permission.   A similar provision in the Masterplan of the Grangegorman Development is being successfully implemented.  Also, the present Docklands SDZ requires the Developers to liaise with the local employment services regarding local employment.  This is being carried out with some degree of success, at present. 

The new owners of Clery’s, OCS Properties Ltd,  have stated their intention to create some 2,000 jobs when the new business is fully up and running.  These are hotel and retail jobs and are ideally suited to the activities and culture of the local community in the North East Inner City.

It is essential that any planning permission granted to OCS Properties Ltd should include a requirement for the employment of local people and for those members of Clery’s who were treated so badly to be re-employed.

The report by Kieran Mulvey into the social and economic regeneration of the North East Inner city identifies the importance of local developments and local businesses in providing the community benefit and community gain necessary to regenerate the area.

The report recommends that local services and educational provision be resourced and streamlined to provide the training and apprenticeships necessary for the local youth to acquire the necessary skills and to access local opportunities.

Decent jobs and decent wages can transform an area of the city which has levels of unemployment experienced nowhere else in the country.  Endemic unemployment has given rise to anti-social behaviour and criminality, particularly rampant drug abuse and gangland killings.

An Bord Pleanala should condition any permission granted to require the applicant to liaise with the local community in the context of implementation of the Mulvey Report. To that end a local stakeholder liaison structure should be established.

Planning applications can no longer be considered in a social vacuum.  Government policy requires that the North East Inner City be regenerated and that the business community must play its part.  This coupled with the vision of the Scheme of Special Planning Control for O’Connell Street, means the Clery’s Project should be appropriately conditioned to achieve that objective.  The new Clery’s can become as iconic a business as the old.  It can be at the heart of the regeneration of the North East Inner City and provide opportunities for the well-being of local people.

The decisions An Bord Pleanala makes on this planning application can mould the future development of Clery’s as a template for the vision expressed by Dublin City Council, for the regeneration of its City Centre and the vision expressed in the Mulvey report for the North East Inner City.

Finally, there is no reference to any form of Development Levy under either Section 48 or Section 49 of the Planning and Development Act (2000).  This is highly unusual, particularly as the Luas construction works are currently ongoing and there are plans for Metro North to go through O’Connell Street.  Any planning permission granted should be subject to standard development levies.  Moreover, I would suggest that Bord Pleanala could make the innovative recommendation that a portion of such levies collected be ring-fenced for the implementation of provisions pertinent to the Mulvey Report.