Friday, 18 January 2008

Howth developer's land jumps by EUR20m after council vote

LAND owned by a developer in Dublin jumped by between EUR12m and EUR20m in value following a decision by Fingal county councillors.

The councillors voted in favour of changing the county development plan to allow for a 64-home scheme on what has now become one of the most exclusive sites in the country.

The land, which was bought 11 years ago for an estimated £400,000 (EUR500,000), contains a disused sports hall, the stunning site overlooking Howth harbour had been zoned for recreational use.

But by a majority of 20 votes to three, councilors in Fingal changed the zoning to allow for residential development.

Construction firm Pierse Contracting Ltd, which had lodged a planning application for the scheme, will now almost certainly get the go-ahead.

In return for the material contravention of the development plan, Pierse has pledged to pay the local authority EUR2m to build a new sports hall.

"It's the most beautiful site. By us passing a material contravention on that site we are increasing its value by somewhere between EUR12m and EUR20m," Anne Devitt (Fine Gael) said last night.

"I believe the 64 apartments will sell for more than EURlm each. I can't understand how any council or community group would accept a community gain (EUR2m) of so little. Never have I seen such a poor gain for such a high-value return," she added.

However, when it came to the vote she backed the material contravention.

A council report said the Edros site on Balscadden Road, south of the Martello Tower, "has been disused and abandoned as recreational space for the past number of years".

County manager David O'Connor came down strongly in favour of the material contravention. He said he has never seen a "more straightforward, public way" of dealing with a planning proposal.

"There was a huge amount of work done by local people," he added. But he slammed talk of EURlm apartments and the value of the land shooting up as a result of a contravention.

Most of the EURlm apartments around the city are empty, Mr O'Connor said, adding "to promulgate that type of myth in relation to this is a gross insult".

Howth representatives Michael Joe Cosgrave (FG), Joan Maher and David Healy (Greens) all voted for the plan. "If we don't go through with the material contravention here today (the developers) can site on that site and we don't have a community centre," Cllr Maher said.

The dissenting voices were Clare Daly (Socialist Party), Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) and Peter Coyle (Labour).

Penfacs, a local community group in Howth established by former county manager John Tierney, backed the proposal.

Several councillors raised fears that if they did not back the plan then the developer would appeal Fingal's decision to An Bord Pleanala.

The councillors said the board could give the go ahead to the scheme and the council would be left without the EUR2m for community facilities.

ZONING: The new development will have stunning views of the popular Howth Harbour if it gets the go-ahead

Cormac Murphy
Evening Herald

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