Tuesday 25 September 2007

Architect exposed on TV admits charges

A FORMER architect whose business was wiped out after he was featured in a television expose yesterday pleaded guilty to allowing dangerous buildings to be used as a hostel for 170 people, including children.

David Grant has had two-and-a-half years to rectify serious fire safety defects in the 250-year-old Georgian buildings at 7-10 Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin District Court heard. They are let out in 44 units to 170 people and bring in €30,000 a month in rental income.

Mr Grant (56), Haddington Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, is to be given a few more weeks to carry out works to make the buildings safe. These include replacing inadequate fire doors, inadequate emergency lighting and providing proper waste storage.

After viewing pictures of bunk-bed style accommodation, in which at least two children sleep, Judge Anthony J Halpin said he did not want to "put anyone out on the road" by closing down the hostel, but Mr Grant would have to get to work quickly on rectifying the defects.

Mr Grant was featured in a 2005 RTE 'Prime Time' programme which showed how he had set himself up as an architect without formal qualifications and sought planning permissions for hundreds of 'side-garden' homes in Dublin.

Up to two-thirds of his applications to one local authority were rejected -- three times higher than the average. Technical defects, such as one in which a house was too big for the piece of land involved, were among the reasons why they were turned down.

Also in 2005, Mr Grant was fined for altering his deceased father's driving licence after he was stopped for drink driving, an offence, his second in a year, for which he narrowly escaped a jail term.

Yesterday, his solicitor Cahir O'Higgins, said the 'Prime Time' programme had resulted in him "losing his business" after he was subjected to "a phenomenal" amount of media attention.

As a result, his attention to the Gardiner Street buildings was distracted for some time.

"He is getting his financial affairs in order but he is not a wealthy man," Mr O'Higgins said. Some of the outstanding defects in the hostel had been dealt with, including the storage of waste. He had engaged an electrical contractor and an architect to deal with others.

Judge Halpin said he was prepared to give him another four weeks to make significant progress as he had already had more than enough time. He adjourned the case for two weeks for mention to see how he is doing.

Irish Independent

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