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After O’Devaney Comes the Oscar Traynor Road Site

With the O’Devaney Gardens plan still in dispute, it’s unclear how councillors will fall on similar plans for another council plot.

Dublin City Council has used the same procurement model, and tenure breakdown, in its proposals to develop roughly 800 homes on a big site at Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock.

“I’ve a feeling that is going to be revisited,” says Larry O’Toole, a Sinn Féin councillor for the area. “They are not unrelated.”

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council says that the Oscar Traynor Road site, which is also due to be developed with a private developer, “is at the final stages of the procurement process”.

The remaining two bidders are about to submit their final tenders and a decision will be made on the basis of those tenders, they said.

On Oscar Traynor Road

Fianna Fáil Councillor Racheal Batten, who lives around the corner from the site, said she hopes the council will have chosen a preferred bidder by January 2020.

The plans for the site are that it will be developed with 50 percent private market-rate homes, 20 percent private “affordable” homes, and 30 percent social homes.

She would like to see a full mix of tenures, including private and cost-rental on the site, she says, but she will work towards delivering the housing whatever the model is.

She really hopes that the affordable homes will be affordable to people on average salaries, she says.

“The difference between O’Devaney and Oscar Traynor is time,” she says. “We have time to try to make sure this project is done right, and maybe a new housing Minister that will take locals’ concerns into account.”

Her party colleague, Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, also mentioned the potential for a major change in housing policy, if there were a change of government.

Locals are worried about how tall and how dense any development built on the site might be, says Batten.

The Oscar Traynor Road site has not yet been discussed by the Dublin Agreement group leading the council, says Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland.

She says it’s a separate issue from O’Devaney Gardens. They’ll examine the deal once they see the preferred tender, she said.

“It is a much bigger site and it doesn’t have the legacy issues that O’Devaney has,” she says.

Traffic management is one of the major issues because the Oscar Traynor Road is extremely busy already, and local residents are worried about the impact of adding 800 homes.

“It needs to fit into the locality in a sustainable way that doesn’t cause gridlock in the local area,” she says.

O’Toole of Sinn Féin says he wants to see the site developed and that the affordable housing should be “really affordable”.

More social housing should be included in the deal too, he says.

“I’ve lived in council housing since 1968 and Dublin City Council is the best landlord in the city,” he says. His younger neighbours should be able to avail of that opportunity, he says.

The Procedures

“Although both sites are different, the same procurement procedure and parameters apply,” said a council spokesperson.

That means that the competitive dialogue approach to tendering, used in O’Devaney Gardens, is also being used to find a developer for the Oscar Traynor Road site.

Elsewhere in the city, the same model is set to be rolled out in other major government building projects too, says UCD lecturer and architect Orla Hegarty.

“There are indications that this is the model that will be used by NAMA for the Poolbeg development and by the Land Development Agency for other sites,” says Hegarty.

Competitive dialogue processes are unusual and for complex and high-value contracts, said Hegarty. “Such as developing transport infrastructure or computer networks.”

“It is a process that is more lengthy and expensive, which may exclude some prospective bidders,” she said.

Batten of Fianna Fáil says she would have preferred cooperative developers to be up for the contract for the Oscar Traynor Road site.

“Similar to the fantastic development in Ballymun,” she says, referring to the work of the Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance.

“We act as a social developer or a cooperative developer,” says Hugh Brennan, the chief executive of Ó Cualann. “But it is a developer-led model of building and we have contractors, large and small, lining up to work with us.”

He said they are capable of developing a site the size of Oscar Traynor Road but were excluded at pre-qualification stage. “We did not have the required turnover in the past three years,” he says.

He intends to develop 5,000 affordable homes over the next five years, he says and has the capacity to do very large sites, he says.

A spokesperson for Dublin City council says it was advised to pursue the competitive dialogue approach for these sites, by a number of professionals and agencies.

The council got advice from its internal procurement unit, an external consultancy, the National Treasury Management Agency and legal advisors, they said.

“All of whom advised that Competitive Dialogue procedure was the most appropriate procedure for the needs of the Housing Land Initiative,” said the spokesperson.

By law, the council has to use one of five recognised procurement models. The competitive dialogue process is one of those, says the spokesperson.

Once they embark on the procedure “the final tenders have to be accepted by the Contracting Authority (DCC) as the legitimate response to the tender”, says a council spokesperson.

“There is no scope in the Competitive Dialogue to discuss or negotiate the prices contained in the final tenders, the successful tenderer is chosen on the basis of evaluating the tenders as per the evaluation criteria, which in turn is based on the principle of The Most Economically Advantageous Tender,” says the spokesperson.

Hegarty of UCD says it would be faster and cheaper to procure housing in smaller lots, on the basis of standard contracts for construction work. “Linking development to future market prices is high risk and expensive.”

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