Tuesday 18 November 2008

Docklands body warned of legal threat to master plan

DUBLIN DOCKLANDS Development Authority (DDDA) has been warned that its latest draft master plan, which carries a €4.5 billion price tag, is so flawed that it would be open to challenge in the High Court.

Property developer Treasury Holdings, controlled by Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan, said it reserved "the right to instigate legal proceedings should the significant issues highlighted not be addressed in a satisfactory manner".

In a submission to the DDDA, Treasury said it had been excluded from any meaningful consultation on the master plan, despite being "the largest stakeholder in the Docklands area", claiming that this was "a gross breach of statutory duty".

The company complained that no details were provided or references made in the draft to the DDDA's radical proposal to create a "Liffey Island" projecting into the river between Spencer Dock and the East Link bridge, with a new canal on three sides.

"The canal would result in a major intervention into the North Lotts and the lack of any reference to it or assessment of its impact in the strategic environmental assessment is a significant omission," according to the company's submission.

"Any proposed intrusion into the River Liffey would be contrary to the policies of the draft master plan, most notably conservation policies relating to the quays [and] contrary to the DDDA's stated position until now of preserving the campshires."

This is a reference to the strips of land between the roads and waterfronts in Docklands that used to be occupied by sheds but have since been laid out as amenity areas, with pedestrian and cycle paths, trees and benches to sit on.

The proposed "Liffey Island" would involve building a high-rise cluster on stilts in the river, obliterating a long stretch of the North Wall Quay and campshire and compensating for these losses by creating a U-shaped canal to surround the new buildings.

The submission also criticised the draft plan's "preferable treatment" for redeveloping the Poolbeg peninsula, "despite its relatively low accessibility compared to areas such as Spencer Dock", where Treasury is involved in building the National Conference Centre.

"This is not acceptable from an economic and planning policy perspective, given the significant national investment in the North Lotts area," it said, referring to the conference centre, the Luas Docklands extension and the planned rail interconnector with Heuston.

Treasury said it was also "concerned that the preferential treatment afforded to the Poolbeg area is not based on sound planning grounds but rather is in order to ensure that the DDDA extract maximum value from their landholdings" in that part of the Docklands area.

This is a reference to the former Irish Glass Bottle Company site, which was acquired in October 2006 for €412 million by a consortium headed by property developer Bernard McNamara, with the DDDA holding a minority stake. The price equated to €17 million per acre.

The Irish Times


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