Sunday 22 July 2007

Brothers may sue council over ban on development

THE Presentation Brothers have expressed their "hurt" at a move to prevent them from cashing in on what potentially could have been one of the most lucrative land deals for a religious order in the country.

The Brothers have threatened Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council with legal action because they say the local authority did not consult them on its decision to start a process which could protect the order's 4.5 acre sports field in Glasthule, Co Dublin, from development.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown county councillors voted on July 9 to initiate a variation of the council's county development plan to preserve the playing pitch.

The field at Hudson Road could be worth as much as €40 million if it was rezoned residential, according to estimates based on other land deals in the area.

A solicitor's letter sent to the county council on behalf of the Presentation Brothers on July 5, said the congregation had been "most upset" to read in a Sunday newspaper (Sunday Business Post ) that County Manager Owen Keegan intended to start the variation of the development plan.

"We must insist that we receive confirmation from you, by return, that the council will not take further action of the nature indicated above or, indeed, any action that will adversely affect the lands in question," the letter added.

A subsequent letter sent by the congregation to the local authority after councillors initiated the variation, said the order was "astonished" the council had begun the process.

"Apart from the obvious discourtesy, we find it incredible that you [the council] should publicly comment on our lands to third parties in the absence of even contacting us, as owners."

Speaking to Southside People newspaper, a spokesman for the Presentation Brothers said that while the Religious Order was "not annoyed" over the variation proposal itself, it was "very hurt" the council had not consulted it on the move.

"The local community will also have to accept that the Brothers have needs but we were and are very willing to examine all possibilities," he added.

Local Cllr Tom Kivlehan (GP) was educated at primary and secondary level at the Presentation Brothers Glasthule, and also played sports on the playing grounds in question.

He said he supported the variation to protect the field from development because of the lack of amenities in the area and added that the decision was based on "proper planning principles".

In a statement, the council said: "At the Council meeting of July 9, the Council agreed to the commencement of the variation process.

"The landowners as well as the public will be invited to make representations on the proposed variation as part of the statutory procedure under the Planning & Development Act 2000."

In recent years several religious orders have benefited hugely from selling land to developers in multi-million euro deals. The bar was set six years ago by the Sisters of Charity, with the sale of 14.5 acres of land on Merrion Road, Dublin, for €45.7 million, which set a new record for a development site in Dublin.

Among the major property deals of 2005 was a 208-acre site at Belcamp College, Malahide, which made €105 million for the Oblate order.

Sunday Independent

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