Special Report 61: Ballymun Regeneration Summary

In 1997 following government approval, a regeneration programme tp address high levels of economic and social deprivation was begun in the Ballymun area of Dublin. Dublin City Council established a company known as Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL) to develop and implement the programme.

The bulk of funding for the programme is provided through the Vote of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (the Department). A wide range of other agencies and groups, many of which are in receipt of public funding are also involved in the programme. Under arrangements approved by Dublin City Council the proceeds of property transactions are available to BRL for reinvestment in the programme. The programme has also targeted private investment under the 1998 Urban Renewal Scheme.

A Masterplan developed in 1998 envisaged that the programme would be completed by the end of 2006.

My examination concentrated mainly on the arrangements for the delivery of measures set out in the Masterplan and focused on

  • the outturn so far in terms of time, cost and delivery
  • progress in the areas of economic and social renewal
  • the challenges that remain from the viewpoint of the successful completion of the programme.

Outturn of the Programme

In 1999 the government approved a budget of ?442 million for the measures set out in the Masterplan. It is estimated that, taking account of associated civic and community works as well as programme variations, the overall cost will be of the order of ?942 million before future inflation, and that the physical redevelopment will not be completed until 2012. Taking account of the slower pace of the physical development and the increased cost it would be appropriate at this point to review the programme.

At 31 December 2006, the extent of progress on the main elements of the physical development was

  • nine of the thirty-six blocks of flats had been demolished
  • 52% of the planned public housing and 39% of private housing had been completed
  • a new Main Street has been substantially completed.

Delays have been attributed to a wide range of factors. These included the extended planning process, lack of mapping of utilities, enforced changes in demolition methods due to asbestos, scope changes, the demands of the consultation process with tenants and the community and voluntary sector, delays in moving tenants to their new homes, procurement problems in an overheated construction market, liquidation of some contracted companies, health and safety issues, and an industrial dispute. Better planning and risk management could have mitigated some of the causes of the delays. Regardless of any overall review, a risk analysis of the remaining stages of the programme should be undertaken to assist in managing the programme in a manner designed to ensure that the revised target can be achieved.

Much of the increase arises from the fact that additional cost factors pertain in the case of development in an existing inhabited community. However, some of the variations were attributable to estimation deficiencies, including a failure to provide for associated administrative costs. The experience with the programme should position the Department to formulate more rigorous evidence-based projections for future regeneration programmes.

Local Economic Development

Since the commencement of the regeneration both commercial and residential land values in the Ballymun area have increased at a faster pace than in the wider Dublin area. However, values are currently about 25% below the North Dublin average.

The new Main Street has been successful in attracting both public and private sector investment which now includes a Civic Office, an arts centre, apartments and two hotels. A major setback, however, has been a delay in the provision of a new shopping centre. BRL needs to ensure that this key element of the Main Street development is put in place as quickly as possible.

A joint venture with a property developer designed to provide a business and technology park on land at the Ballymun junction fronting onto the M50 did not proceed because of a lack of demand for suburban office space in the Dublin area. A revised approach has subsequently been adopted to provide retail, leisure and industrial activities together with a transport hub and a recycling and resource recovery centre.

While unemployment in Ballymun has fallen by almost 30% between 1997 and June 2006 it remains between three and four times higher than the national average. A major retail centre to be provided by IKEA by 2010 holds the prospect of improving this situation through agreed local employment targets. Overall, in order to take full advantage of available employment opportunities, priority should be given to the training of local people for jobs which are created through the regeneration programme. BRL should continuously monitor the extent to which local labour is being absorbed.

Social Regeneration

By comparison with national standards, education standards are low in Ballymun. A survey in 2004 found that only 26% of pupils in Ballymun passed the Leaving Certificate compared with 74% nationally. Targets should be set for improvements in education standards. BRL has commissioned a study of formal education including both primary and secondary levels which could facilitate this process.

Crime and anti-social behaviour are risks to sustaining the regeneration programme. Little attention was given to this issue in the early period of the regeneration but since 2003 BRL has convened a Citizens Jury on Anti-Social Behaviour which has developed a series of recommendations which are being addressed. A key success factor will be the extent to which the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour in the area are addressed and countermeasures implemented.

There has been some dissatisfaction with the level of community consultation and involvement. This can be difficult to achieve because of the scale of the regeneration programme and the range of diverse organisations involved. A more strategic approach and a greater level of co-ordination could stimulate involvement of the wider community including owner occupiers, private tenants and private businesses and help to realise the potential for community development. A change in funding arrangements for organisations with a greater emphasis on performance related support and the introduction of Service Level Agreements is to be welcomed.

A key objective of the regeneration programme is to increase tenure diversity. Within the core regeneration area the final tenure mix is likely to be 43% social and 57% private housing. However, a risk to social cohesion lies in the fact that most of the private housing completed to- date is physically separate from social housing, and is concentrated mainly on the Main Street. While BRL consider that over time greater integration can be achieved through the provision of private and affordable housing in Ballymun?s neighbourhoods it also needs to develop initiatives to encourage private housing occupants to participate in community and housing development initiatives.

One risk to the tenure diversity objective of the programme which emerged related to the impact of rental transactions. During the initial phase of private housing development a large number of tenancies were supported by Rent Supplement. BRL and the Department of Social and Family Affairs agreed a measure to address this. Occupancy of private housing will need to be continuously monitored to evaluate the achievement of the targeted tenure mix. It may also be worthwhile comparing any social outcomes associated with different tenure mixes in each of the five neighbourhoods.

Sustaining Progress

Maintaining the high standard of physical redevelopment which has been achieved to date will be important in order to ensure that the area remains attractive to private investors, commercial development and private house purchasers. This will involve putting structures in place before 2012 for the management and maintenance of the physical environment and associated funding mechanisms.

If the benefits of tenure diversity are to be realised it will call for active management of both social and private housing. Notwithstanding the move towards private tenure, almost 3,200 social housing tenancies will remain in the area and effective management and maintenance of these tenancies will be needed. This will require the provision of locally focused services with devolved responsibility. The effective management of private housing is also important for the sustainability of mixed tenure in the area. BRL has intervened to provide management support to private landlords following problems experienced with the management of private rented accommodation.

Rigorous management and timely maintenance using an area based management approach will be required to ensure the quality of community facilities, parks and public spaces is maintained.

The regeneration programme involves a wide range of different organisations with different aims and objectives and with differing accountability arrangements. While these appear to contribute to a coherent approach, co-ordination could be strengthened through more formal structures and greater interaction in the development and implementation of the different strategies.

Programme evaluation has been hampered by the absence of a systematic approach, the lack of baseline statistics and inadequate and variable information feedback on programmes. While progress has been made in developing performance indicators to measure social and economic regeneration there is a need to establish an agreed cluster of key indicators and to improve the provision of information from agencies so that progress can be regularly monitored and outcomes evaluated.

In a wider context, an evaluation should be carried out over the short term which focuses on the lessons that have been learned in order to guide future regeneration work in Ireland. In future regeneration programmes, the Department should ensure that the baseline position is established and that there is regular monitoring of key outcomes.