Sunday 11 January 2009

U2 tower could face legal challenge

The architects who won an international competition to design the U2 tower at Dublin's south docks are contemplating legal action against the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information on the tower, the Department of the Environment said legal proceedings between BCDH, which won the competition, and the DDDA "were either under way or being contemplated".

However, details of BCDH's correspondence to the department cannot be published as, in a highly unusual move, the department deleted the email. The department says that, because the email was deleted, no record exists.

Asked why a record pertaining to a possible legal action was deleted, an assistant principal in the department admitted to the Sunday Tribune that "perhaps that email should have been archived rather than deleted".

The email was deleted after the IT department told the minister's private secretary that his email folder was too large and they needed to archive or delete some emails.

The department's res­ponse to the FoI request states that environment minister John Gormley was approached by or on behalf of BCDH on 1 November 2007 after an event in the Ballymascanlan Hotel. An email was later sent to the minister's office from which "it became clear that legal proceedings were either under way or being contemplated". The minister's office then said it would be inappropriate to meet them under those circumstances.

"I've absolutely no comment to make," said Felim Dunne of BCDH when contacted late last week.

The DDDA has refused to release certain records relating to the tower under FoI, particularly those surrounding its decision to seek tenders to develop the site. The Sunday Tribune was at first told that details of when the DDDA was informed that U2 was a member of one of the consortia bidding to develop the tower did not exist, but in a later response this was ruled to be "commercially sensitive" and would "prejudice negotiation and deliberation". Details of correspondence with BCDH regarding the use of a different design for the U2 tower were also not released for the same reason; neither were details of how the independent architectural jury panel that reviewed the designs was chosen.

Development land experts say land values in the area have fallen by about 70% since tenders were submitted. The DDDA announced last year that talks between it and the U2, Ballymore and Paddy McKillen consortium dubbed Geranger about developing the site have been suspended for a year.

Sunday Tribune

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