Company objects to potential rezoning of its industrial site

By Maurice Garvey

THE potential re-zoning of industrial sites could have major implications for a company like Pat O’Donnell & Co – Ireland’s largest supplier of plant machinery and equipment.

O’Donnell’s Irish headquarters are based in Chapelizod, a location that is one of 11 landbanks in Dublin South Central under consideration by Dublin City Council (DCC) for re-zoning to residential use.

Pat ODonnell 10 compressor

The headquarters of Pat O’Donnell & Co in Chapelizod

The Echo understands DCC is recommending under-utilised adjoining industrial sites to O’Donnell’s at Chapelizod Bypass/Kylemore, be rezoned for residential use.

“We wouldn’t feel we are under-utilised,” said PJ O’Donnell, Director of Pat O’Donnell & Co.

“By the very nature of what we do, we need large tracts of land. We sell large equipment, need space to keep that in stock. When it is not in stock, we need space.”

Bizarrely, O’Donnell’s have been down this road before and were “zoned out of Fairview”, prior to moving to Chapelizod in 2005.

Employing 60 people in Chapelizod, and up to 100 nationwide, Mr O’Donnell says a rezoning of the adjoining land would stop further development of the business.

“We are nearly at the point where we need additional office space. Right now if we apply for planning permission, we get it, but if there is a rezoning and we need to increase the size of a building, we would be deemed non-compliant and refused,” he said.

Providing heavy duty equipment and machinery to the building industry and State bodies like the Defence Forces and ESB, means O’Donnell’s essentially has to operate on a 24-hour basis and any failure to deliver to customers would be costly.

“We have to operate 24 hours a day, delivering heavy machinery with escorts, gardai wouldn’t let us otherwise,” said O’Donnell. “A port crane we sell, weighs up to 200 tonnes. We bring it in in 12 loads and assemble it.

“We deliver to Coillte, the cost to shutdown a timber factory is €1m. We supply the machinery to keep them going.”

Local councillors are generally in favour of housing at under-used industrial sites, but some expressed concern for the future viability of O’Donnell’s at the South Central area meeting this week.

Cllr Vincent Jackson (Ind) said: “The big concern is, if housing is built, and they (O’Donnell’s) have trucks coming in at 4 to 5 o’clock in the morning, people will be complaining. They provide service to State bodies, the Irish Navy, the Aircorp, and employ 100 people.”

Cllr Jackson said site owners are normally delighted if their land is re-zoned for housing, thus increasing the site in value, but acknowledged that this is not the case in this instance, as O’Donnell’s do not wish to move.

He, along with Cllr Sophie Nicoullaud (GP), met the company last week, and raised concerns on their behalf at the local area meeting.

 “I don’t believe we can afford to lose 100 jobs in Ballyfermot,” said Cllr Daithí de Roiste at the meeting.

All of the sites are set to go out to public consultation and proposals will go forward to a council meeting in March.

At the area meeting, the city council senior planner Deirdre Scully said they haven’t notified owners at this stage of the process, as it is councillors who will decide on the zoning, and on each site individually.

She said Chapelizod Bypass, at 3.5 hectares, “is one of the larger ones” of the 11 local sites.

“It is quite significant, great location, we are recommending that this be changed to a residential use.”

Ms Scully said there may be sites out there that do not suit this process, and that is why they are putting them out as individual variations to the City Development Plan.

For Pat O’Donnell & Co, the cost of another ‘zoned out’ scenario would have serious ramifications.

“I have no intention of moving out of here,” said PJ O’Donnell. “If I had a free greenfield site and got the maximum value for this place, it would cost me more to rebuild, in the millions.

“We have a highly skilled workforce, 35 people who have been with us for more than 30 years. We supply all builders, quarries, cement merchants, brick merchants, timber and saw mills, and we are an essential part of the building industry.”

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