Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nimby Syndrome in Ballsbridge, South Dublin?

On Tuesday evening, property developer Seán Dunne, who in 2005 spent €380m acquiring seven acres of land in Ballsbridge, South Dublin, from the Jurys Doyle hotel group, presented plans to construct a 37-storey building on the sites of the Berkley Court and Jurys hotels.

Dunne outlined to a private meeting, including local politicians, the plans for a mixed use scheme which would incorporate residential, retail and office use. He hopes to construct 600 apartments in the development.

Dunne can only build a residential development on the site under its current zoning. Dunne who built his current home in 2002 on Shrewbury Road, Ballsbridge, just a half mile away from the hotel sites, was reported last month by The Sunday Business Post to have bought Walford on the road for €58 million - the most expensive house in the country. The newspaper said that a planning application erected outside the Edwardian mansion at 24 Shrewsbury Road in Dublin 4 last month, sought permission to demolish the house and replace it with a new house, with a swimming pool and staff quarters. 

The Carlow-born developer is reported to want to build a private road at the rear of the house and two three-storey four-bedroom houses at the back of the seven-bedroom Edwardian house, which stands on 1.8 acres. However, the Sunday Times reported that Dunne denied that he is the so-called "mystery" owner.

On Tuesday morning at the High Court, Shrewsbury Road resident Seán Dunne and a neighbour who is a solicitor, sought to overturn the granting of planning permission for a development of seven apartments adjoining their homes. The proposed development is on the former site of the Chester Beatty library at 20 Shrewsbury Road. Among the objections reported to have been raised to the proposed development is that the developer, O'Malley Construction Co Ltd, has not specified how it will conform with the requirements of the planning acts for social and affordable housing, Mr Justice Brian McGovern was told.

The social and affordable housing scheme is a joke of a system. Under Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2002, up to 20% of a development must be given over to social and affordable housing. If not, under changes introduced in 2002, land or cash must be handed over in lieu. Journalist Jane Suiter says that in reality, this is a moving target. Different councils have varying targets and policies.

According to Hubert Fitzpatrick of the Irish Homebuilders Association, far more flexibility needs to be delivered. It's basically another tax on the first time house buyer as developers generally pay cash in lieu to the local councils. As with the land development bonanza, the plonkers are the ones who have to pay at the end of the line. Outlining the case before the High Court, Hugh O'Neill SC, for Dunne and solicitor Stephen MacKenzie, said the planned development is for seven apartments in a two/three-storey building over basement on the site at Shrewsbury Road of the former Chester Beatty library, which relocated to Dublin Castle in 1999. O'Neill was contending the decisions of An Bord Pleanála in 2004 and 2005 upholding the decision of Dublin City Council to grant permission for the development breached a number of planning regulations, including requirements relating to posting site notices for proposed development. The nature and extent of the proposed development was not properly described, counsel argued. 

The initial application failed to state that the proposed development involved the demolition of two habitable houses on the site, which had been used by curators of the library. Shrewsbury Road is in a residential conservation area and special consideration had to be taken when assessing any proposed developments in the area, O'Neill said. An Bord Pleanála has denied the claims. Seán Dunne likely knows more than most people how beset the Irish planning system is with Nimbyism (NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard)*.

The newspaper reports today on the case may not cover all the objections of substance in the case. 
However, on the day that Dunne presented his more than €1 billion development plans for the hotel sites, just more than a stone's throw away, the objection to the development doesn't progress Irish planning that is already a "worst case scenario" case study being used by the European Environment Agency.