Friday 4 March 2011

Property group must decide on Lucan site

A PROPERTY group that posted huge losses last year is now faced with a decision on whether to go ahead with the development of land near Lucan that it agreed to acquire from South Dublin County Council at the height of the boom in November 2006.

Shelbourne Development Ltd, controlled by Garret Kelleher and chiefly known for its abortive Chicago Spire project, swapped land at Cooldrinagh, near Leixlip, for a 41.5-acre site at Kishogue, in the Balgaddy/Clonburris strategic development zone.

Under the contract, Shelbourne would pay €40 million for the site and a further €38,500 for each residential unit it gets permission for over and above 650 units. But Mr Kelleher said this would be offset by the council paying an equivalent sum for 200 social housing units.

Speaking from New York last night, he said the deal was done “prior to the world changing”, and its contract with the council specified Shelbourne now had a period of time to consider what it would do with a project on which it had been working for nearly five years.

Under the contract, 10 per cent of the purchase price would have to be paid within one month of securing planning permission. With the site-related loans now in Nama, it is expected that the State’s “bad bank” will have a role in deciding whether it goes ahead.

Shelbourne had originally sought permission for 973 apartments and houses on the site, but council planners reduced the number of residential units to 898, and granted permission for shops and other community facilities.

After an appeal by the ESB, the Combined Griffeen Planning Action Group representing local residents and Cllr William Lavelle (FG), An Bord Pleanála has approved an amended version of the scheme, with 32 conditions.

The board made its decision having regard to the Department of the Environment’s sustainable residential development guidelines, the South Dublin County Development Plan and the designation of the area as a strategic development zone.

It also took into account the site’s location close to the Dublin-Cork railway line, the pattern of development in the area, Shelbourne’s plan to locate six-storey apartment blocks away from existing two-storey housing, and its phased approach.

Subject to a reduction in the number of residential units to about 850, the board considered the scheme would have an “acceptable density and housing mix” and would not be “excessively high” or seriously injure local amenities.

Mr Lavelle said he was “appalled and gutted” by the ruling: “It beggars belief that An Bord Pleanála could rule that locating six-storey buildings next to two-storey housing would not be visually obtrusive or would not have any impact on traffic.”

He said neither the county council nor the appeals board should have even considered “this massive development” while work on developing the nearby “model town” at Adamstown had stalled. Indeed, he felt Clonburris would “undermine” Adamstown. “Ultimately, the community of Lucan South is now paying a heavy price for very bad decisions taken by the 2004-2009 county council,” he said, adding the council had ignored submissions from many people in the area in adopting the Clonburris local area plan.

The decision was a direct consequence of the land swap, he said, noting An Bord Pleanála had refused permission for the park-and-ride site, citing environmental sensitivities as to the Liffey Valley. So it was “unlikely that the council will ever get to build on the land it received as part of the land-swap”.

“Now that the planning process had been concluded, I will be seeking a full inquiry into this disastrous land-swap,” he said, adding the “only hope now is that market conditions may mean that this over-ambitious proposal will never see the light of the day.”

In February 2010, a company in the Shelbourne Property Group reported a pretax loss of nearly €150 million, largely due to the soaring Chicago Spire project – stalled for at least two years – that was being part-funded by Anglo Irish Bank and is now the subject of litigation.

Irish Times

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