Friday, 28 December 2007

Convent demolition may cost firm €12.7m

DUBLIN City Council is to prosecute a developer who illegally demolished a 19th century convent in Terenure over a year ago.

Despite having been told in November 2006 to re-instate the building, which was in the process of becoming a protected structure, Kimpton Vale has failed to do so and now faces fines of up to €12.7m if found guilty of an offence.

The council has already given the company and its principal Laurence Keegan two opportunities to rebuild the Presentation Convent, and the matter will be referred to the courts.

It is understood that the company has not been in contact with the council.

Now city manager John Tierney has instructed the council's law agent to institute proceedings under the Planning and Development Act 2000 after Kimpton Vale failed to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the council.

The 1830s convent was part of a three-acre site on Terenure Road West sold for infill development in April 2006 for €15m. The convent was described as being in good condition at the time of the sale, but homebuilders Kimpton Vale Ltd razed it on November 4, just two weeks after Dublin City Council began the process of adding it to the Record of Protected Structures (RPS).

Bulldozers moved in to demolish the convent at 7am and by the time a dangerous buildings officer from the council arrived at 9.30am, so much was razed that the remainder had to be demolished on public safety grounds.

The company also faces legal proceedings because it failed to secure planning permission before demolishing the convent.

The enforcement proceedings are being taken under the 2000 Planning and Development Act, which states: "Any person who, without lawful authority, causes damage to a protected structure or a proposed protected structure shall be guilty of an offence."

Anyone seeking to demolish a "habitable" building is required to get permission prior to the work being carried out, which did not happen in this case.


The company was instructed to reinstate the convent "to the satisfaction of the planning department of Dublin City Council", but failed to do so.

Laurence Keegan was involved in a company which made a record tax settlement just four years ago.

Mr Keegan, of Parkmore House, Auburn Drive in Castleknock, was a director with Lido Construction until January 2002, nine months before it made a €7m settlement with the Revenue Commissioners for under-declaring corporation tax and VAT. At the time, it was the biggest published settlement in the history of the State.

As a result, Mr Keegan was restricted as a company director for five years from January 2004.

Mr Keegan also made a personal settlement with the Revenue Commissioners in 2002, totalling almost €84,000 for under-declaration of income tax -- of which €45,000 was interest and penalties.

He could not be contacted yesterday for comment, nor was anyone from Kimpton Vale available.

It is not yet known if Kimpton Vale was told that the convent was going through the process of becoming a listed building

City managers have previously forced developers to reinstate buildings after they were illegally destroyed. In 1999, the Art Deco Archer's Garage on Fenian Street was razed, but the council forced the developer to rebuild it.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

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