Sunday 14 December 2008

Development row sees council sued for millions

PROPERTY developer Bernard McNamara is seeking damages of tens of millions of euro from Dublin City Council after it turned houses that McNamara wanted to develop into protected structures.

McNamara has taken a high court challenge against the council's decision last July to preserve the 19th century terraced houses in South Dublin.

In an application for a judicial review of the decision, McNamara and his business partners argued that the decision to list the houses at Llandaff Properties on Merrion Road was "ultra vires", meaning beyond the powers of the council, and therefore has no legal effect.

The case involves Radora Developments which is owned by McNamara, Jerry O'Reilly and David Courtney.

The Llandaff properties – made up of a short terrace and, at its northern end, Llandaff House – are situated between the Tara Towers Hotel site and McNamara's Elm Park Development.

The application argues that there was no material before the councillors to allow them to conclude that any of the Llandaff properties were of special architectural, or other, interest.

The decision "flew in the face" of the advice of the council's conservation officer, independent conservation consultants, an executive at Dublin City Council, and an architect and historic building consultant engaged by Radora, it added.

A number of councillors, according to Radora, appeared to have acted "from an improper motive" – to prevent the demolition of the properties without first considering whether the statutory criteria were met for designating them as protected structures.

As a result of what the application alleges was a "misfeasance [the improper or unlawful execution of an act] of public office by the elected members", McNamara and Radora had suffered "a significant financial loss and damage".

Around €10m had been spent buying the houses. Plans to develop the properties, along with the adjoining Tara Towers Hotel site had been halted and the company was incurring financing and running costs of €750,000 a year. The site development was expected to yield a profit of around €40m, the application said, but the listing of the Llandaff Properties had "significantly impaired" Radora's ability to properly develop it.

In the application, McNamara and Radora argue that two conservation reports from consultants engaged by Dublin City Council and the report of the council's Conservation Office were not before the elected members at the full council meeting when the decision was made to list the houses.

The councillors, it adds, failed to have regard to certain "relevant considerations", many of which were contained in the various conservation reports – such as the extent of damage to the internal fabric of the houses, the alteration to external features including the presence of modern PVC windows and the absence of "any outstanding architectural features".

Sunday Tribune

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