Special Report 61: Ballymun Regeneration Press Release

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, has today published a report on the regeneration of Ballymun.

Background to the Examination

In 1997 the government approved a proposal to address the high levels of economic and social deprivation in the Ballymun area of Dublin. Following on from this, Dublin City Council established a company known as Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL) to develop and implement a regeneration programme. The programme involved replacing the existing high rise development with conventional housing as well as associated initiatives designed to address the physical landscape and social environment. The bulk of funding for the programme is provided by the Exchequer through the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The examination 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 to the successful completion of the programme. 

Main Findings

Outturn of the Programme

A Masterplan was developed for the programme in 1998. It set a target for completion of the demolition and rebuilding work by 2006 but this proved over-ambitious in the light of the constraints and logistics involved. The revised target for completion of the programme is now 2012.

At the end of 2006, twenty-seven of the thirty-six blocks of flats remained to be demolished. Taking account of work in the meantime, this has reduced to 24 (one 15-storey ?tower? block, seventeen 8-storey ?spine? blocks, and six 4-storey ?walk-up? blocks). The public housing programme was 52% complete by mid 2007.

Better planning and risk management could have mitigated some of the causes of the delays. For this reason, a risk analysis of the remaining stages of the programme should be undertaken to assist in managing the programme so as to ensure the revised timescales can be achieved. 

The works identified in the Masterplan were costed at ?442 million in 1999. By 31 December 2006, ?501 million had been spent. The estimated cost to completion at 2006 prices is put at ?942 million. 42% of this uplift is accounted for by a combination of extra costs associated with renewing infrastructure in an existing inhabited community and estimation deficiencies mostly due to the failure to provide for administrative costs.  The balance is attributable to inflation.

Local Economic Development

Since the commencement of the regeneration, the attractiveness of the area from an investment perspective has risen. This is indicated by the fact that commercial and residential land values have increased at a faster pace than in the wider Dublin area. However, they still remain at about 25% below the North Dublin average. 

A key focus of the renewal to date has been on the creation of a new Main Street. A modern streetscape has been successfully created. However, one reservation in this respect is the delay in providing a new shopping centre which reduces the level of social and economic interchange that might otherwise exist.

On the local employment front the impact to date has been somewhat limited.  While unemployment has fallen by 30% over the ten years to June 2006 it remains between three and four times the national average. On the positive side, an IKEA development is expected to have a significant impact on job numbers in the Ballymun area. In preparation for this, priority should be given to training local people for employment opportunities and BRL needs to continuously monitor the extent to which local labour is being absorbed.

Social Regeneration

The promotion of a balanced tenure mix is seen as an important means of promoting the long-term social cohesion of the community.  The fact that most private housing constructed under the programme is physically separate from social housing and is concentrated mainly on the Main Street could pose some risk to this objective.

If crime and anti-social behaviour are not to undermine the sustainability of the regeneration programme, the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour need to be addressed and pragmatic countermeasures implemented.  A three-year strategy to tackle crime, anti-social behaviour and drug abuse, launched in June 2007, should help in this regard.

Addressing low educational attainment would position the community to take greater advantage of the programme. A survey in 2004 found that only 26% of pupils passed the Leaving Certificate compared with 74% nationally.  Targets should be set for the improvement of educational standards in the area.

Greater cohesion and alignment of the objectives of local groups could contribute to more effective community development.

Sustaining Progress

Maintaining the high standard of physical redevelopment which has been achieved is important in order to ensure that the area continues to be attractive to private investors, commercial development and private house purchasers.  Arrangements for the long-term funding and administration of the area will be necessary to underpin this investment and active and effective management and maintenance of both social and private housing and of local amenities will be essential.

Evaluation of the impact of regeneration programmes and the value for money obtained for the quantum of public funds put into such programmes is difficult. The potential for impact evaluation has been affected by the lack of a systematic approach, the absence of baseline statistics and less than comprehensive data on performance in key areas.

Notes for Editors

The Comptroller and Auditor General is an independent constitutional officer with responsibility for the audit of public funds.  He reports to Dáil ?reann.

The full text of the report is available on the website of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (go to www.gov.ie/audgen/)

For further information about the report, please contact:

Richard Rapple at (01) 603 1038 or at Richard_Rapple@audgen.irlgov.ie