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Property developer plans to build refugee center in Balbriggan as housing plan falls through

The legal challenge to the Balbriggan apartment project on the site of the old Tesco store is prompting Rhonellan Developments to look for alternatives

Rhonellen Developments’ Templar Place apartment project is planned for the site of a former Tesco shopping center in the heart of the northern city of Dublin, but is facing a legal challenge from a local residents’ group.

The group claimed the large number of one-bedroom apartments in the project made it an unsuitable development for the site.

In February 2022, Balbriggan Council applied to the Supreme Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision after the residents’ group launched a fundraising appeal to fund the action.

Now Rhonellen, which declined to comment when contacted, has filed a petition for standing in the Supreme Court to challenge the community group’s right to judicial review.

Sources said the outcome of this lawsuit could determine liability for the costs of legal action taken by the community group.

The area around the city center, now earmarked for residential development, has fallen into serious disrepair

The original application for the development was to demolish the shopping center and build 19 studio apartments, 41 one-bedroom apartments and 41 two-bedroom apartments across three blocks, as well as two retail units.

An Bord Pleanála had granted approval for the apartment complex as a strategic housing development on the condition that the seventh floor of one of the three blocks would be omitted and the total number of residential units would be reduced from 101 to 95.

In its decision, the board said the proposal represented “an acceptable level and density of development in this accessible urban location.”

But sources have said so Sunday independent that the developer is currently assessing the potential for a refugee accommodation center as an alternative for the site and has sought a pre-planning meeting with local planners to discuss the option.​

In the decade since the Tesco store moved to the new shopping center there has been significant neglect in the area surrounding the town center now earmarked for housing development, but significant progress has recently been made in redeveloping the wider area.

The currently dilapidated six-story building has been largely empty and unused since 2011

The site is close to the harbor and a new park area, which is being extensively renovated at a cost of 15 million euros. The currently derelict six-storey building has stood largely empty and unused in the newly built Millfield Center on the outskirts of the northern city of Dublin since 2011, when the retailer opened what was then the largest Tesco store in Ireland.

Balbriggan has historically been one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country and in 2023 had the youngest median age of any Irish town at 33.6 years.

A search last week on found just one rental property in Balbriggan, a five-bedroom house for €3,000 a month.

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