Thursday 14 May 2009

€8.5m house only ambassadors can buy

"FOR SALE: One delightful embassy. Only ambassadors need apply. Ferrero Rocher optional."

That's how an ad might read in the next edition of 'Embassies under the Hammer'.

Wealthy financier Derek Quinlan thought he was really spoiling himself when he shelled out €8.5m before the property market crashed for the former Mexican embassy.

Situated in Dublin's plush Ailesbury Road, he planned to turn No 43 into a tastefully restored office development.

Now the High Court has ruled the building can only be used as an embassy, leaving Mr Quinlan with a pricey investment which can only now be recouped if it's bought by a foreign government.

The decision comes just a week after Mr Quinlan put his palatial New York townhouse on the market with a price tag of $37m (€28.3m). He paid over $26m (€19.8m) for the property in 2005.

A former tax inspector, Mr Quinlan's business vehicle has focused on property acquisition. In 2006 he paid an estimated €27m for two properties on Shrewsbury Road.

In relation to his Ailesbury Road purchase, he had challenged a strict planning requirement which stated the property could only be used as an embassy but Judge Elizabeth Dunne ruled against him.

She said the planning rule was necessary and relevant to the permitted development and proper planning of the area, and was also reasonable.

It emerged the property was the home of the German Embassy from 1962 until the mid-1990s when the Mexicans took over residence.

Mr Quinlan bought the building in October 2007 and shortly afterwards applied for permission for refurbishment works.


The wealthy developer said the purchase represented a "a very significant investment" by him and he had planned to spend €1.67m on work on it.

But things took a rather undiplomatic twist in January 2008 when Dublin City Council told Mr Quinlan the entire building "shall be solely for use as an embassy".

Explicitly, it added that its development plan laid down that the building could not be used for general offices unless he had planning permission.

Mr Quinlan unsuccessfully appealed the condition to An Bord Pleanala which in September 2008 rejected its own inspector's recommendation to omit the condition.

Dismissing his appeal yesterday on all grounds,the judge said that in imposing the condition on the entire property, it was "not disproportionate".

While planning rules did not expressly refer to embassies, the issue of what does or does not come within the scope of office use was quintessentially a matter for the planning authorities and not the court, she said.

In this case, the board was entitled to conclude the established use of the property was as an embassy.

It was also entitled to have regard to the city council's development plan and the objectives regarding embassy use, she added.

Ciaran Byrne
Irish Independent

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