Sunday 19 July 2009

New planning guidelines may put end to legal disputes

Long-running disputes about shopping centres could become a thing of the past if the recommendations of the new retail planning guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area are implemented.

"In planning for growth in town centres, planning authorities should allocate sufficient sites and expansion areas to meet the identified need; and where necessary use compulsory purchase [CPO] powers to bring forward important sites. Large town-centre schemes may require a longer period of time to assemble and this should be reflected both in the development plans and the development management process, allowing for longer planning permissions and greater floor areas, reflecting that they will be catering for demand beyond 2016," the retail strategy document for 2008-2016 states.

Legal disputes have delayed the development of several major shopping centre sites in Dublin, notably The Square, which Mr Justice Peter Kelly has previously said in the High Court seems "to give rise to more litigation than any other piece of real estate".

A long-running case taken by Noel Smyth's Redfern for €140m in damages against Tom McFeely, Larry O'Mahony, Liam Carroll and related companies began hearings in the High Court last week.

Senior counsel Paul Sreenan, for Smyth and Redfern, said that Smyth tried to get South Dublin County Council to CPO the licence and "made submissions to the local authority to try to get them to do that, but they did not move on that". In May 2004, he had offered property adviser Sean Davin a total payment of €12m for his car-park licence (see panel), €5m of which was to be paid upfront, together with one-third of the profits of the development if he came into a joint venture for the further development of The Square.

Davin declined, the court was told, saying that he felt the licence was worth €40m but later dropped the asking price to €36m. Agreement could not be reached however and Davin later sold the Tuansgate development and the car park licence to McFeely and O'Mahony for €55m. Sreenan suggested to the court "that it would probably be reasonable to estimate" that the Tuansgate scheme was worth up to €30m, suggesting the licence value was about €25m.

Sreenan said later that Smyth "will still try to do something with The Square but if he is to do any development in the car park, the only opportunity he will ever have of doing that is that if the Lowe licence is CPO'd. He will certainly try to get it CPO'd but there is no guarantee it ever will be. But even if the Lowe licence was CPO'd and some development could be carried out, at best it would be a break-even development now."

The Square is not the only shopping centre redevelopment to have been delayed by legal disputes.

The site of what is now to be called Dublin Central on O'Connell Street has been subject to numerous legal disputes while a redevelopment of the main centre in Finglas village was also delayed due to a legal dispute.

Sunday Tribune

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