Thursday, 11 September 2008

It's Dunne versus Desmond

THE "Battle of Ballsbridge" steps up a gear today when property developer Sean Dunne squares off with financier Dermot Desmond in an attempt to see his €1bn dream development become a reality.

Mr Desmond has slammed a number of developers planning to build high-rise developments in Dublin city, accusing them of being motivated by the maximisation of profits.

Mr Dunne paid a record €380m for the seven-acre Jurys/Berkeley Court site in the heart of Ballsbridge in 2005 and has ambitious plans for it -- including a hotel, shopping centre, 294 apartments, office space, an embassy building and a cultural centre.

His plans for a 37-storey tower have already been rejected. However, he is asking An Bord Pleanala to reinstate it.

Mr Desmond is unlikely to appear in person at the public hearing in Croke Park today, but his legal representative is due to call four witnesses who will support his opposition to the development.

Yesterday a number of opponents to the development told the hearing that they had been "physically intimidated" when they tried to voice their objections at a public meeting in the RDS in September last year.

Paul White, a property investor and resident of Wellington Road, claimed the gathering descended into "mob rule" and that he was "surrounded by a group of young thugs" supporting the development who began chanting in order to drown out other speakers.


Earlier, Dublin City Councillor Paddy McCartan, who was making an observer submission on behalf of his Fine Gael colleague, deputy Lucinda Creighton, said a number of people felt "physically intimidated by the threatening behaviour of Mr Dunne's supporters on that night".

A barrister for Mr Dunne described the allegations as "outrageous" and "completely untrue" and asked Insp Tom Rabbette to strike them from the record.

"[This] can only be seen as an orchestrated attempt to damage the credibility, good name and reputation of Mr Dunne and the applicants," he added.

"It is defamatory and amounts to an injurious falsehood."

In his submission, Mr McCartan said many of the 90 third-party supporters to the development had professional, financial or familial connections with the applicants.

"This does not affect their right to submit their opinion, but it would have been a lot more honest if they had been open about any such connections with Mr Sean Dunne or his companies," he added.

He pointed out that Ms Creighton, who had organised the meeting with Mr McCartan, had described the gathering on her website as seeing "a lively debate" in which "all those present got to put forward and debate their views".

Meanwhile, an expert witness appearing for local residents told how existing homes surrounding the development would be "drowned" in shadow, with residents on Lansdowne Road and Shelbourne Road the worst affected.

Paul Kenny, from the School or Architecture at University College Dublin, said that the lack of sunlight in the pedestrian areas within the development, combined with excessively high wind speeds around the high-rise buildings, would make the spaces "quite uncomfortable for the vast majority of the year".

He added the scheme was poorly designed for residents paying €1m for an apartment.

The hearing continues.

From Planners hear of terrorist threat fear to Sean Dunne's Dublin 4 tower.

Breda Heffernan
Irish Independent

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