Tenants challenge plans for Israeli Embassy's new offices in Dublin

A plan for new offices for the Israeli Embassy in Dublin is at the centre of a planning dispute, the High Court has heard.

Tenants challenge plans for Israeli Embassy's new offices in Dublin

A plan for new offices for the Israeli Embassy in Dublin is at the centre of a planning dispute, the High Court has heard.

The fifth floor of number 23 Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridge is to be leased by the State of Israel from the building owners, Spectre (Shelbourne) Ltd.

However, concerns about safety and security have been raised by two of the building’s current tenants as part of the planning process.

Today, Spectre was given leave by the court to seek to quash a Bord Pleanála decision that the change of use of the fifth floor from general office to "embassy office" is not exempted development and therefore requires planning permission.

As part of the new lease arrangement, Spectre says the Israeli Embassy is to surrender an existing lease it has with Spectre for similar facilities just down the road at Carrisbrook House on Pembroke Road.

Last year, Spectre, along with two existing tenants of the building, Finance Ireland and Transaction Network Services (TNS), raised queries as to whether the change to the fifth floor of the building was an exempted development.

All three asked Dublin City Council to make a decision under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as to whether it was exempted. Finance Ireland, among its arguments that it was a change of use, cited the public nature of embassy activities as well as safety and parking.

TNS referred to the "change in risk profile" that it would bring and the fact that it would have to declare the change to its insurers.

In all three cases, the council said it was exempted.

Finance Ireland then referred the council's decision in its application to An Bord Pleanála which, on February 6 last, decided it was not exempted.

In its challenge, Spectre claims, among other things, the board erred in law, took into account irrelevant considerations, acted irrationally and/or unreasonably.

Spectre says it has already spent more than €1m on refurbishment works and is concerned that it could be subject to planning enforcement action.

The application was made to Mr Justice Charles Meenan on a one-side-only represented basis who adjourned the matter to May. The city council and Finance Ireland are notice parties.

The judge also granted liberty to apply for a stay on any works on the building on 72 hour's notice.

In 2018, Spectre's parent firms, U+I and Colony, found their plans for the alteration and extension of their Carrisbrook House property the subject of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála by the then Israeli ambassador, Ze'ev Boker.

It was argued on Mr Boker's behalf that the change of part of Carrisbrook from embassy office to general use would be a material change of use, as an embassy had different privacy and security arrangements. Concern was expressed that a proposed rooftop terrace at the building could present a significant threat.

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