Friday 3 September 2010

Nama must decide over funding for Anglo HQ

THE NATIONAL Asset Management Agency (Nama) will have to decide whether it should fund the completion of developer Liam Carroll’s half-built development in Dublin’s docklands following yesterday’s decision by An Bord Pleanála that the structure can be retained and completed.

The original planning permission for the residential and commercial buildings was given by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority as part of its fast-track process but was rescinded in 2008 by the High Court, in a case taken by Sean Dunne.

After the ruling Mr Dunne, who has a nearby development, wanted Mr Carroll’s half completed structure demolished.

Mr Carroll’s company, North Quay Investments Limited, successfully got permission from Dublin City Council to retain the structure and to complete it. However that decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Mr Dunne’s company, North Wall Quay Property Development Limited, part of the Mountbrook Homes group. Yesterday the Dunne appeal was dismissed.

The development was to house a new headquarters for Anglo Irish Bank, which has funded the project to date.

A court hearing last year heard it would cost €8 million to clad the buildings and a further €60 million to complete them.

Mr Carroll’s companies had drawn down €40 million from Anglo as of last June to finance the development.

Mr Carroll’s loans have been moved to Nama. As one of the first and largest 10 developers to have had loans moved to the agency, Mr Carroll’s group will have to submit business plans to Nama before it will release any further funding.

The agency has a €5 billion fund for investment in projects where it believes it can increase its overall return if it completes unfinished projects.

The docklands buildings, which form part of the collateral for Mr Carroll’s loans, have arguably increased in value because of yesterday’s decision.

The three-block, seven- to eight-storey development was to have housed a new HQ for Anglo and for Evershed O’Donnell Sweeney solicitors, which acted for Carroll.

Anglo, which is now nationalised, has announced it has withdrawn from its agreement to move to the Carroll building, though it is not known how much it paid to be released from its agreement.

Nor is it known how long a lease or at what rate Anglo had contracted for. A note in its 2009 accounts said withdrawal from the agreement reduced the bank’s future rent by €101 million.

The current board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has expressed misgivings about aspects of the development, not least the multiple involvements of Anglo Irish Bank.

The bank’s former chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, was on the board of the authority while also being a director of the bank.

The authority’s current chairwoman, Prof Niamh Brennan, has expressed concerns about how the authority’s executive concluded a deal with Mr Carroll whereby it would press to have the planning scheme for the North Quay area changed, so that Carroll could double the height of the development.

The underground car park is sufficient for a 16-storey development.

Irish Times

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