By Gordon Deegan
One of Ireland’s richest men, billionaire financier, Dermot Desmond has secured planning permission to construct a 17,168 sq ft palatial mansion on Shrewsbury Road in D4 - Ireland’s most exclusive address.
In getting the go-ahead for the ambitious mansion plan, Mr Desmond has also been given the green light to demolish the existing house at Walford - the most expensive house ever sold in the State at a staggering €58m in 2005.
The applicant behind the plan, Mr Desmond’s Celtic Trustees Ltd, has succeeded where three other previous attempts at knocking down Walford - built in 1902 - have failed with the planners.
The Desmond company paid €14.25m for Walford in December 2016 and the approved house plan - three times larger than the house to be demolished - includes four large en suite bedrooms all with walk-in wardrobes with the three bedrooms to the rear all having balconies that will look onto formal gardens.
The size of the sprawling Walford site at 1.77 acres is the property’s most valuable feature and today at the rear to the run-down house there is an open field.
However, Mr Desmond - the largest shareholder in Celtic FC and shareholder in Independent News and Media (INM) - has recruited former British Army Officer and three-time Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winner, Marcus Barnett to oversee the creation of what will be the most elaborate and opulent private garden in Dublin.
The planning application also comprises a basement that includes a subterranean swimming pool, gym, cellar, games room and staff bedroom which looks out onto a sunken courtyard.
Planning documents lodged with the application state that “in the interests of transparency, we can confirm that the dwelling is intended for use as the private dwelling of Mr Dermot Desmond”.
The planning application lodged contains a series of internal photos of the ‘trophy property’ at Walford showing the extent to which the house has fallen into disrepair over the years.
The city council planning report into the case recommended that planning be granted after its planner visited the site and said that she would be in agreement with the applicant that the existing house “does not have significant features which would require its retention”.
On the replacement house, the planner stated: “While the scale of the new property is significantly larger it is designed it so that it is suitable to its setting.
"The site will be vastly improved with the proposed landscaping scheme and with the re-development of the site."
The planning report stated that the council “consider that given the dereliction of the site, the poor quality of the existing building in its architectural features etc and given the proposal for a single property which respects the existing character of the road, the demolition of the current property in this specific instance is considered to be acceptable”.
The report states that the Council welcomes the re-development of the site “and given that the site is to accommodate one single residence the scale of that residence is considered to be acceptable for the site and the road which is a residential conservation area”.
There were no objections lodged against the plan and the only submission was a letter of support from neighbour, Moya Coulson, wife of financier, Paul Coulson who also features prominently on Irish ‘Rich Lists’.
In her submission, Ms Coulson offered her support to the plan and told planners that Walford “has remained unoccupied and in a state of near dereliction for almost 15 years presenting a very poor image to the road”.
Ms Coulson said that the current house “is a building of dubious quality and certainly is not any architectural merit” and “very much welcomed” the Desmond plan as the new house “will be an enhancement to Shrewsbury Rd”.
The go-ahead for the demolition of Walford and the development of the mansion mark an end to a 13-year long saga, which began in July 2005 when Walford was sale agreed for €58 million to a mystery buyer.
The identity of the purchaser remained shrouded in secrecy and it was reported that developer, Sean Dunne was the mystery buyer.
It was later claimed by newspaper columnist turned property developer Gayle Killilea, who married Dunne in 2004, that ownership of the house had been transferred to her in 2005.
The property was later transferred to a Cypriot company, Yesreb Holdings, before being sold to the Desmond trust in December 2016.