29 September, 2006

Shanganagh Castle for Sale

I think they're selling the family silver. Michael McDowell has put Shanganagh Castle in South Dublin on the market.

Growing up near Shankill we used to climb Katty Gallagher, all 912 feet high and look down on the lands between the Dublin Mountains and the sea. Between the village of Shankill and Bray were farms, and in the middle of it all was Shanganagh Castle. It was built in 1408 for the Lawless family.

Michael McDowell told me in a Dáil reply back in 2002: "Shanganagh Castle was opened in 1969 as an open detention centre for males aged between 16 and 21 years of age. The centre, which stands on grounds of 24 acres, has accommodation for 60 inmates. However, it has been increasingly difficult to identify young male offenders suitable for this type of open prison accommodation. Shanganagh Castle had an average offender occupancy of 30 inmates last year and this has fallen again this year, with only 16 inmates being detained there at present. In addition, the full implementation of the provisions of the Children Act, 2001, will mean that 16 and 17 years old inmates must be completely segregated in the prison system, resulting in a further drop in those offenders who might be found suitable for transfer to Shanganagh Castle, and was acquired by the State for young offenders in 1969.

He went on to say that it cost €127,000 to keep an offender there for a year, but that kind of a figure always sounds a bit odd. I'd have thought it would be a perfect location for young offenders. There's a farm attached to the lands, and what better location for young offenders than a place in the country, right beside a proposed DART station? Well, the guide price is €15m, but the Indo thinks it'll go for closer to €30 farm.

If young offenders lose out, how about offering it to first time buyers?
The agents CB Richard Ellis tell us that
"the site offers an excellent opportunity to construct a high quality residential development in a prime location, subject to the necessary planning consent... The proposed DART station at Woodbrook will undoubtedly ameliorate the sites potential even further."

It's a curious use of the word 'ameliorate' methinks, but perhaps modern English isn't on the curriculum in Property School.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has bought some of the lands at the front of the site but perhaps the Department of Justice could have offered the Castle and the 6 acres of grounds to Des Geraghty's Affordable Homes Partnership to assist first time buyers. There's also a need for more educational facilities in Shankill.

Maybe some canny investor will put a five star hotel on the site, but for the State to sell such lands all seems a bit short-sighted to me, particularly when the Council hasn't even finished drafting a Local Area Plan for the area.

1 comment:

Geraldine Comiskey said...

Hi Ciaran. Just came across your blog when I was looking for pictures of the castle. I agree with you that it is a shame that it was sold. My mother and I have received a strangely visceral reaction to a letter (below) which we posted on the Shankill Open Forum (on Facebook) today, having previously sent it to SCAN (Shankill Community Association Newsletter) - who refused to publish it and basically told us we could only air our views on the subject to local councillors!
Here's the letter we posted:

Dear Editor,

We were dismayed to read that a group of “local representatives” got together and came up with a plan to destroy one of Shankill's most charming and beautiful amenities: the grounds of Shanganagh Castle. Surely they are not representing the people of Shankill with their proposal to allow developers to build 340 houses in the grounds of the castle?

While they have cunningly appealed to groups who might object (eg, promising that the allotments would remain, and that there would be sports facilities, and that 200 of the houses would be “social houses”), they are ignoring the wishes of the silent majority who are not part of any particular group and just like to enjoy the simple pleasure of going for a walk in the tranquil setting of the castle grounds, with no housing estate to disturb the peace or spoil the view – just the picturesque castle as a backdrop.

This silent majority (who won't raise the matter at residents' association meetings for fear of antagonising the very vocal sports lobby and unsympathetic councillors), includes elderly people, families with toddlers who are too small for the playground in the park, and women who like to walk alone in safety. These are the people who avoid the vast park next door because parts of it are just fields (who in their right mind would go for a walk alone there?) and the rest of it is given over to boisterous sports activities, skateboarders, cyclists and people letting their dogs off the leash – and there are no wardens on duty to make it safe.

Not only does our castle look like something out of a fairytale (as little children for generations have observed) - Shankill is clearly the “Cinderella” of the Southside. Imagine the outrage if houses were built in the grounds of Cabinteely House or Marley Grange? Our castle is far more beautiful than those two buildings.

The cynical attempt to exploit the homelessness crisis does not wash, given the fact that most of these houses will be two-storeys, none will be higher than three-storeys and at least 140 of them will be private homes sold at exorbitant prices. If we really wanted to solve the homelessness crisis, we'd build high-rise apartment complexes suitable for families, such as the ones found in every major European city, closer to Dublin city centre – not out here in what was supposed to be a green belt.

It does no favours for the environment either (again, high-rise in urban areas is the solution, not more suburban sprawl which was acceptable in the 60s and 70s but not now in these more enlightened times).

Property values will also plummet if Shankill gets any more built-up. The reason people buy houses here is because it is a charming little village with a rural appearance – complete with a castle in its own grounds.

Why not come up with a more creative plan for the Castle and its grounds? How about running arts and cultural activities in the grounds, such as our very own version of the Electric Picnic or a farmer's market? This would draw visitors to the area, who would spend money in our local shops, pubs and cafes? Shankill deserves better than to become a sprawling dormitory suburb.


Nancy and Geraldine Comiskey.