New planning zone at Dublin Docklands

22-storey buildings sanctioned in fast-track scheme

Dublin Docklands could become a hive of building activity once more following the state's creation of a 66-hectare special planning zone along the riverside land in the city centre.

About one third of the new zone is available for fast-track construction of commercial and residential development in the area previously managed by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

The establishment of the special planning scheme follows the Irish government's decision to close down the troubled DDDA and transfer its powers to Dublin City Council.

The Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) will facilitate the construction of buildings up to 88 metres or 22 storeys high. Crucially it will allow owners of Docklands sites to secure construction permission directly from city planners which cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, the highest state planning authority.

The 66-hectare area has been divided into five development hubs: Spencer Dock, Grand Canal Dock, Boland’s Mills, Britain Quay and Point Village, of which the latter two have been identified as suitable for 22-storey commercial buildings.

This height represents a significant increase for the Dublin skyline. To put it in perspective the landmark Central Bank building on Dame Street has nine storeys while Dublin’s tallest commercial building – in the Docklands – is the 15-storey Montevetro building, bought in 2011 by internet giant Google.

About half of all new development in the Docklands is expected to go towards providing badly-needed housing for the city centre. Demand for housing has been increasing in the capital in recent times, despite a national fall-off since the economic crash five years ago. More or less forgotten until the 1990s, the Docklands became the centre of fast-track development at the height of the "Celtic Tiger" boom, but in recent years its abandonded half-finished buildings served as one of the most obvious reminders of Ireland's ill-fated property frenzy.

The district contains many of the city's newest attractions, mostly ambitious projects conceived during the Celtic Tiger era but completed in post-boom Dublin. Among the best known are the Grand Canal Theatre designed by Daniel Libeskind; the enormous National Convention Centre on the North Wall Quay; and the Observation Wheel and Point Village market which were created by Harry Crosbie, the charismatic Dublin developer whose name is synonymous with regenerating the Docklands.