Sunday, 2 November 2008

Dublin Docklands Development Authority had no choice but to defer U2 Tower plan

The decision to delay the U2 Tower development was really the only solution available to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

Last week it announced it has suspended negotiations on the development for up to 12 months to allow the property and financial markets to improve, although things are likely to be worse in the property markets by then.

As reported in this newspaper two weeks ago, the talks came close to collapse over the issue of a deposit. The Geranger consortium, which was selected as the provisional preferred bidder to design, construct and finance the U2 Tower and Britain Quay Building late last year, wanted the deposit to be refundable; the DDDA did not.

Geranger is made up of U2, Paddy McKillen and Seán Mulryan's Ballymore. Its Norman Foster-designed tower won the competition to develop the building despite the fact that its bid was below at least two others.

The suspension of negotiations means it will now be nine years at least since the project was mooted before it goes ahead. It also leaves open the possibility that it will have to be redesigned to cater for changed economic circumstances. The design that won the competition has already been altered, sources said.

Construction on the tower was due to begin this year and be completed by 2011 but now there is no knowing when ground will be broken.

Meanwhile, the DDDA has appointed Grant Thornton as its "organisational management consultants" following a tender process that commenced in June. The authority said it needed "to streamline its processes to ensure that its planning practices and protocols are characterised by maximum efficiency, best practices in stakeholder management, customer care and the utilisation of optimum technical processes" because it was significantly expanding its planning process "in both geographical area and the quantum of its operations". It follows the DDDA's decision to become involved in the future development of the South Wharf site at Ringsend. Grant Thornton will assess its current processes and procedures and then make recommendations.

The appointment is timely as the commercial court recently ruled that the DDDA acted outside its powers in granting "fast-track" permission for a €200m development on Dublin's north quays. Developer Seán Dunne had challenged the decision to grant Liam Carroll planning permission on the former Brooks Thomas site at North Wall Quay. The Spencer Dock Development Company has taken a similar case.

The DDDA told the commercial court two weeks ago it is not appealing the court decision but it remains to be seen if it includes the buildings under construction by Carroll in its new master plan.

"Feedback is being evaluated following the recent public consultation and amen- dments will be made before the final draft master plan is submitted to the minister for approval," said a DDDA spokeswoman.

Sunday Tribune

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