Friday, 15 December 2006

Court date now looming for Georgian piles

Irish Indo from earlier in the week:

THE sale of two historic Georgian houses, which are potentially worth millions, for just €1 each has landed Dublin City Council in the High Court.
Number 3 and Number 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin, are among the most historically important Georgian properties in Ireland.
Six years ago Dublin City Council made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the two houses under Section 22 of the 1999 Planning and Development Act, which allows the council to seize abandoned or neglected buildings.
But Marie Underwood - a Dalkey-based property owner - came forward to claim the two historic properties as hers and dispute the council's right to take them over. Now the matter is heading for the High Court.
"Basically the owner wants her houses back. Dublin City Council took a compulsory purchase order [CPO] on the two properties because they were in, from what I can understand, a pretty poor condition. The CPO notices were issued between transitional legislation that was no longer valid, so the owners are contesting it on a variety of grounds including constitutional," explains Donough Cahill of the Irish Georgian Society.
Since 2000 the matter has remained unresolved and in the meantime the council advertised the properties for sale at €1 each - with a condition that the new owners restore the houses to their original 1700s splendour.
The costly restoration would require the use of original techniques and materials such as oak roof joists, lime plaster and salvaged bricks. Conservation architects who are working on a nearby house on Henrietta Street estimate that it would cost €4m per house to restore them to their original grandeur.
Under the Derelict Sites Act, 1990, and newer legislation governing dangerous buildings, the local authority can get an order against the title-holder of a building, which can lead to statutory proceedings to get ownership. Urgent remedial repairs can be made by the local authority, for which the owner gets billed.
Alternatively, depending upon the individual circumstances, the owner may lose his house altogether.
"It all began in 2000 when it was thought advisable under Section 22 of the Planning and Development Act, 1999, to take a Compulsory Purchase Order to save the buildings. In 2001 we got approval from the Minister for the Environment, culminating in March 2002, when we took ownership," explained Al Devine, a spokesman for Dublin City Council.
"However, Marie Underwood, who owned the buildings, took proceedings and is contesting the CPO. The case is waiting to be heard in the High Court," he added.
The case is expected to be heard in the spring.
Marie Underwood and her late husband, Ivor Underwood, owned up to 70 historic Georgian properties in Dublin which they bought in the Sixties when developers and speculators were buying them up for demolition.
Henrietta Street, named after the Duchess of Grafton, dates from the 1720s and was laid out by Luke Gardiner, who is credited with turning Dublin into an elegant Georgian city.
The houses on the street are considered the finest examples of Georgian architecture ever built.

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