Sunday, 1 February 2009

Residents seek an investigation into council's handling of case

RESIDENTS groups yesterday demanded an investigation into a local authority's handling of businessman Sean Dunne's failed €1bn Ballsbridge project.

Opponents of the controversial plan welcomed yesterday's Bord Pleanala ruling refusing permission for the high-rise development.

A record number of submissions were made in relation to the scheme, with 36 appeals against and 90 in support of Mr Dunne's proposals.

But a group representing 18 residents associations in the Ballsbridge, Sandymount and Lansdowne Road areas, who vigorously opposed the project, said they would be asking Environment Minister John Gormley to investigate why Dublin city planners "forged ahead" and actively encouraged the developers to pursue permissions which had no justification on planning grounds and were in direct conflict with the expressed views of so many city councillors. "It is unfair to all citizens, residents, developers and lenders that Dublin City Planners so blatantly ignored city plan policies in granting permission for this development," their statement said.

Inconsistencies in planning decisions and flexibility in relation to the rules had added fuel to the speculation in land prices and had led to incoherent development.

Last night the Department of the Environment declined to comment on the project, saying they had no role.


In turn, Dublin City Council said it did not comment on any individual planning decisions. An Bord Pleanala was an independent third party but the council would be looking at the decision in relation to the application.

However, one of the groups that opposed the development said it was willing to talk again to Sean Dunne about alternative plans. Damien Cassidy, chairman of the Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount Environmental Group said they were not triumphalist at the outcome -- their concern had always been that Ballsbridge would have been destroyed by the proposed development.

"Sean Dunne is the type of person who is a necessary part of our way out of the recession -- but not as the cost of destroying our heritage," he said.

"We need him, he creates jobs and if he wants to come back and have another shot at this particular site with a more acceptable scheme we would be delighted to sit down and talk to him about it."

An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley said that what An Bord Pleanala had done was to uphold the city development plan which had been approved by the elected members of Dublin City Council. That plan did not identify Ballsbridge as being suitable for high rise development.

"This raises questions as to why the management pushed through a decision which was at variance with the development plan."

Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton welcomed the decision and said the Jury's site was not suitable for an "ego-monument" of 37 storeys.

But she said Sean Dunne should come up with a realistic and sustainable proposal for the site.

Fergus Black
Irish Independent

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