Planning permission granted for 852 social and affordable homes on Central Mental Hospital site in Dundrum

The Land Developement Agency recently told the Oireachtas housing committee that the risk of a court challenge to the development was ‘considered high’

The State agency responsible for housing on public land has received planning permission for 852 affordable and social homes on the grounds of the former Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, south Dublin.

The approval granted to the Land Development Agency (LDA) by An Bord Pleanála marks a big step forward for one of the agency’s most prominent projects - but at a scale lower than it wanted.

The move also raises the prospect of a legal challenge against the decision in the High Court, which could potentially stall construction of the homes for as a long as two years. Any judicial review case must be taken within eight weeks of the planning decision being handed down.

The LDA was set up in 2018 to build homes on State property but took on new tasks under the Housing for All masterplan to back developers building “affordable” homes on private lands. Although the agency has set out plans to deliver 8,000 new dwellings by 2026, it has been criticised for slow delivery as the housing crisis intensifies.


The former Central Mental Hospital, which dates to 1850, was vacated in February by the HSE. In addition to the LDA housing plan, the site has been under Government consideration for modular housing and temporary tent accommodation for refugees.

The LDA had sought approval for 977 homes from An Bord Pleanála under fast-track planning laws, since scrapped, which allowed direct applications for large housing schemes to be made to the planning appeal body instead of local authorities.

Although permission was granted for 125 fewer homes than the LDA sought, the agency welcomed the decision to approve “much-needed” homes. “We are reviewing the decision and will comment in more detail in the coming days,” said the LDA.

The agency recently told the Oireachtas housing committee that the risk of a court challenge to the development was “considered high”. Any such legal action would follow a large number of judicial review cases taken against approvals for separate projects granted by An Bord Pleanála under the defunct Strategic Housing Development laws.

Under proposals unveiled in April 2020, the LDA originally planned 1,200 homes on the site. After a public consultation process, the height of a proposed 14-storey block was ultimately reduced to seven stories.

The proposed housing includes family homes, starter homes and housing suitable for older residents. The plans also include a community centre with indoor sports facilities and spaces for childcare, a medical centre, retail units, a café and a new public plaza.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times