Sunday 23 March 2008

Developer to demolish 10-year-old apartments

LIAM CARROLL, the developer, has secured planning permission from Dublin City Council to demolish a five-storey city centre apartment complex built just 10 years ago under a tax incentive scheme which expires this summer, and replace it with a six-storey office block.

The 47-unit apartment block on the corner of Watling Street and Island Street, just south of the city quays and adjacent to the Guinness Brewery, was built under the Section 23 tax incentive scheme designed to rejuvenate rundown areas of the city.

The tax reliefs available to owners of Section 23 apartments expire on July 31st.

The apartment building is part of the Maltings complex built by Mr Carroll's company Zoe Developments in the mid-1990s. The Maltings blocks A, B and C were completed by 1996 and were sold to private owners; a fourth block, block D, and called the New Maltings, was built in 1998. Mr Carroll retained ownership of block D and rented out the 47 apartments. It is this block he now intends to demolish and replace with offices.

The city council granted permission for the plans last week, despite receiving 39 objections from local TDs, councillors and Maltings residents.

Labour TD Mary Upton said she was particularly concerned that the council's decision would set a precedent for the demolition of apartments that were no longer earning tax relief for developers.

"There is a very serious issue raised by this decision. What now is the future for Section 23 developments?"

Section 23 relief had been designed to rejuvenate areas such as the southwest inner city and it would be a retrograde step if apartments built to achieve this aim were now levelled, she said. "It appears that since the Section 23 relief will now expire, the developer wants to demolish these apartments. This sets a worrying precedent for other Section 23 areas, as developers who notice that the relief has expired may now apply to knock other Section 23 residential developments and replace them with offices, retail or commercial uses."

The 47 apartments have been consistently occupied in the last decade and remain habitable. Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne, appealing against the proposals, said the demolition was contrary to the City Development Plan, which discouraged the demolition of habitable homes.

In their application to the council, the developers argued that the area was one of "economic decline", was "strongly in need of investment and urban regeneration" and that the apartments were currently located opposite "a number of derelict-looking warehouses" and a building owned by a charity for the homeless, the Simon Community.

The design of the new office building would significantly improve the streetscape. The area had lost industries and needed economic regeneration, and the proposed offices would bring employment to the areas, they said.

They would also meet the needs of the services sector, which would be "instrumental in underpinning and directing sustainable economic development" of the area and would be in tune with developments in the nearby Digital Hub, developers said.

Residents of the Maltings complex said the imposition of an office building in their residential complex would adversely affect their quality of life. Residents are to meet next Tuesday to formulate their appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the council's decision.

The Irish Times

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