Thursday 24 July 2008

Billionaire objects to plan for Ballsbridge 'spike'

BILLIONAIRE businessman Dermot Desmond has accused a developer planning to build a 15-storey office block in Dublin 4 of being solely concerned with the "maximisation of profit".

In a submission to a planning hearing yesterday, Mr Desmond claimed that developers were "dictating" planning decisions and that a high-rise office block proposed on the former home of the UCD School of Veterinary was nothing more than an "incongruous spike".

The claims were made on the opening day of An Bord Pleanala hearing which will decide if developer Ray Grehan can build 109 apartments, 20,000 square metres of office space, retail units and a cultural centre in Dublin 4, which will be named Number One Ballsbridge.

The proceedings will be keenly watched by developer Sean Dunne, who proposes building a €1bn mixed-use development -- including a 37-storey skyscraper -- on the Jury's Berkerley Court site which adjoins Mr Grehan's two-acre holding.


Mr Grehan bought the site for €171.5m two years ago, and his proposals have been approved by Dublin City Council.

He says that Ballsbridge is home to numerous office blocks, including Lansdowne House and Hume House, which are nine-storeys tall.

But 24 residents groups and individuals have objected to the scheme. Another seven, including Dermot Desmond, have made observations which allows them to address the public hearing but not to cross-examine witnesses. They claim planning rules were ignored when permission was granted and that the proposed buildings, which range from nine to 15 storeys, are too high and that Mr Grehan's and Mr Dunne's proposals should be treated as one planning application because they are on adjoining sites.

In a submission, Mr Desmond says that the character of Ballsbridge is residential, and there is "no justification" for "inappropriate" developments.

"While there appears to be a trend for developers now to propose very tall buildings on an extensive scale, the justification for this appears to be the maximisation of profit," he says.

"I have a real concern that the developer rather than the planning dictating the planning process and the real motivation appears to be the maximising of site value rather than the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."

Colm MacEochaidh BL, representing 17 groups and individuals, also said the Board should ask the High Court to rule if it was entitled to decide the application, given the fact that the zoning for the site did not allow for the development proposed.

Senior Inspector Tom Rabbette will recommend whether the scheme should be approved when he submits his report after the hearing ends next week. He will also decide on Mr Dunne's application for the Jury's Berkerley Court site.

Paul Melia

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