Monday 2 February 2009

Dunne blames 'snobs' for blocking Ballsbridge scheme

Property developer Seán Dunne says a "snobbish element" in Ballsbridge opposed his high-rise scheme for the Dublin 4 site.

An Bord Pleanála last week refused permission for Mr Dunne's plan to build a €1.5 billion residential, retail and office development, including a 37-storey tower, on the site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels which he bought for €450 million.

"At the oral appeal a lot of people and some of the residents referred to themselves as 'people of means'. So I think there is a snobbish element with Ballsbridge, about Ballsbridge. I actually live in Ballsbridge, it is full of very nice people but there are an element of people who think that they speak for Ireland when they speak for Ballsbridge," he said.

Speaking on the Lunchtime with Eamon Keane show on Newstalk, Mr Dunne said the planning process "brought out I suppose to a certain extent the worst of the local residents and councillors working in tandem and fighting against me on the project".

Asked if he was still solvent, Mr Dunne said: "Sean Dunne as an individual is 100 per cent solvent". However, he said "there are not many companies in Ireland today that are probably solvent and that's just a reality of life".

Mr Dunne denied that the project had been motivated by his own ego. "It was never ego. I have a professional pride in everything I do. Development is not about greed, it's about building a country, building an economy. Somebody's got to do it. I was the man who decided to buy this site. I had a vision for it," he said.

He claimed the construction of the scheme would have created 970 on-site jobs and about the same number off-site for seven years. When the project was finished, 5,400 people would have jobs there, he said. It would have provided €400m to the Dublin economy on an annual basis, "equivalent to about 10 Ireland-England rugby internationals".

He added: "A lot of people have said to me, and a lot of friends have said to me, if an American or a foreign multinational company was coming to Dublin and relocating anywhere including Ballsbridge and creating 5,400 full time jobs, I think it's fair to say there would be a queue of Mercedes back from D4 Hotels all the way back to Government Buildings."

Mr Dunne was also critical of Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, Lucinda Creighton, who, according to Mr Keane, had described An Bord Pleanála's ruling as "a great day for Ireland".

"If that's her opinion, it's a sad reflection on Fine Gael as a party. I would hope it's not the policy of the leader of Fine Gael but if it is they might come out and confirm it."

Mr Dunne said he was "really shocked" at the An Bord Pleanála ruling and complained of a lack of leadership coming from the organisation. He said his reference to creating a "Knightsbridge" in Dublin had been misunderstood. He had wanted to recreate the ambience rather than the architecture of Knightsbridge.

Irish Times

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