€14m house ‘was allowed to become derelict for development advantage’

Ireland’s most expensive house was allowed to become derelict to gain a development advantage, it was claimed at yesterday’s An Bord Pleanála hearing.

Walford, on Dublin’s Shrewsbury Rd, was now known as ‘Bleak House’, planning consultant Anne Mulcrone told the hearing when speaking on behalf of Stephen MacKenzie, a resident on the street.

Gayle Killilea, wife of the developer Sean Dunne, bought the Edwardian house in 2005 for €58m. Earlier this year, Mr Dunne told creditors that he gifted the money to his wife.

Walford was sold for €14m last year to Cypriot-registered Yesreb Holding Limited, but the owners remain a mystery. Appellants against plans to renovate and extend the house in Dublin 4 and build four new homes on the site claim Mr Dunne still has an interest in it.

Last March, Dublin City Council gave permission for much of the planned development but restricted the number of new houses at the rear to three.

Yesreb is appealing the building restriction, while a number of residents are objecting to the entire planned development. Ms Mulcrone said the identity of the applicant was critical, because it was the law of the land.

Revelations at the Mahon Tribunal had highlighted the need for transparency in planning. If they did not know who the applicant was, planning permission could not be implemented.

“That has been the tragedy of this site for nine years,” she said. “Nobody could be taken to task for the removal of the trees, even if the council decided that it was its duty as custodian of the environment to do so.”

Ms Mulcrone said the planning application could not comply with regulations and it automatically followed that it was invalid.

Mr Michael O’Donnell, BL for Mr MacKenzie, said a dangerous precedent could be set because a company registered abroad could operate with impunity — there would be nobody to serve with a planning restriction. He said the site had not be registered since it was sold in 2012. If it had, there would be evidence as to who was the owner.


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