24 February 2022, The Tablet

Dublin archdiocese objects to city rezoning plan



Dublin archdiocese objects to city rezoning plan

Rezoning sites such as parish churches and schools as will make it harder for the diocese to obtain some planning permissions.
Stephen Barnes/Religion / Alamy

The Archdiocese of Dublin has objected to a proposal by Dublin City Council to rezone church lands in a way that would preclude any future housing or office development on these sites, even if they become surplus to requirement.

A 130-page submission by the Archdiocese of Dublin, prepared by planning consultants Brock McClure, sets out the diocese’s opposition to the proposals and highlights the planning implications of the city council’s draft development plan for 2022-2028.

The submission warns that redesignating the zones of sites such as parish churches and schools as will make it significantly more difficult for the diocese to obtain planning permission for residential development on such sites in the future, should the buildings or sites no longer be required, or are no longer be fit for purpose.

The rezoning if it proceeds will affect 33 churches in Dublin and 174 schools.

A letter from solicitors Mason Hayes Curran on behalf of the archdiocese says there are many reasons why the diocese may need to obtain planning permission for residential uses on its land, and the proposed rezoning changes “are particularly discriminatory against our client and will only serve to hinder the religious institutions they intended to protect”.

Speaking to RTE, Labour Councillor Mary Freehill said city councillors wanted to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened to the lands at the former Dublin seminary, Clonliffe College, where permission has been granted on former church lands for nearly 1,600 build-to-rent units in blocks up to 18 storeys high.

According to the financial administrator, Íde Finnegan, the Archdiocese of Dublin has a clear vision for its landholding and the listed sites are all in use and “no changes are currently anticipated in their use” other than in Finglas West, where the church has already been demolished and part of the site is due to be developed for social housing across a portion of the church site by Dublin City Council.

She said that only when sites are no longer needed, or viable, or where the use is no longer tenable, will the diocese look to examine its options.

Referring to the housing crisis, the Archdiocese of Dublin in its statement noted that last year the Irish Episcopal Conference was asked by Government, through the Minister for Housing, to cooperate in addressing the housing crisis by making surplus land and buildings available for housing development.  

In response, the Bishops’ Conference indicated their desire that redundant parish properties should, as in the past, whenever appropriate, be made available for housing and especially social housing. 

“It seems ironic that this would appear to be made more difficult by the proposed zoning status of significant numbers of properties in Dublin.”

The diocese has asked the planning authority to amend the proposed zonings in relation to church landholdings. The application has the support of Archbishop Dermot Farrell and the diocesan finance committee.


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