Saturday 1 October 2016

Builder offers to spare Longboat Quay residents from €1m bill

Families in apartment complex to get letters with offer to complete all works without hefty bills for owners, writes Paul Melia

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Developer Bernard McNamara. Photo: Collins
Developer Bernard McNamara. Photo: Collins

Residents of the Longboat Quay apartment complex could escape paying a €1m bill for fire safety works to be completed at their homes following an offer from developer Bernard McNamara.

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The Irish Independent has learned that Mr McNamara has offered to complete all works at cost price. Residents would be spared any cost because the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, which has an interest in the property as already pledged more than €2.5m to the repairs.

If the offer is accepted, each homeowner would be saved between €4,500 and €9,000 each.

The works are needed to comply with a fire safety notice issued by Dublin Fire Brigade in October, which raised fears residents could be forced to evacuate.

The complex was developed in 2006 by Gendsong Ltd, a company of developer Bernard McNamara, which later went into receivership.

Owners of 298 apartments will receive a letter this morning from Mr McNamara outlining his proposal, which he says will involve completion of all works to the necessary standard, but at a lower cost than suggested and resulting in no bill for homeowners.

Longboat Quay apartments in Dublin’s Docklands. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Longboat Quay apartments in Dublin’s Docklands. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

A spokesman for Mr McNamara claimed that the costs "relating to the apartments that are being debated and negotiated by the DDDA, in the public domain, are off the wall".

The builder is disputing findings in the fire safety report which resulted in the Dublin City Fire Brigade serving the safety notice, which required works totalling almost €3.9m.

Correspondence from Mr McNamara seen by this newspaper takes issue with several points raised by the consultant who completed an inspection - arguing that many of the works are 'upgrades' or routine maintenance.

"Nowhere in the (fire safety) report does it definitively state that Longboat Quay, in respect of the areas where works are recommended, is not in compliance with fire safety regulations," one letter says.

Dublin District Court was told last month that fire safety concerns first arose to 2007 when the brigade attended and said the fire alarms were not loud enough.

In October, Dublin Fire Brigade issued a fire safety notice ordering that work, estimated to cost €3.88m, be completed at the 298 apartments by May 2017. Failure to comply with the fire notice could result in evacuation.

But in the letter to residents, Mr McNamara insists that the building was completed in line with regulations, and that it was certified by the Dublin Fire Brigade upon completion.

He also maintains:

Fire safety consultants did not understood the construction method used to complete the development, leading them to mistakenly belief there was not adequate fire protection between units.

A fire detection system was installed in compliance with the rules. This has since been upgraded at a cost of more than €1m by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA). Mr McNamara says this spend was "unnecessary".

Issues around fire protective measures in service risers, or shafts containing utility pipes and plumbing, could be as a result of "damage, wear or tear, lack of maintenance" and had not been proven to be non-compliant. However, the costs of rectifying the issues is "relatively minor".

Mr McNamara accepts some issues with the size of shafts designed to allow smoke to escape.

The DDDA, which controls common areas of the building and also has an interest in 37 apartments bought under the affordable housing scheme, has offered €2.5m towards the cost of the works. This includes €1m spent upgrading the fire alarm system, and writing off a €250,000 loan.

The receiver of Gendsong, which is being funded by Nama and controls 18 units, has offered another €250,000. This would mean residents would be left to fund the remaining €1.13m, which could range between €4,500 and €9,000 each.

But Mr McNamara says that the works could be completed at just over €1.5m, when consultancy and other costs are stripped out.

It is understood that the offer has been made to the Longboat Quay Management Company, where he says he will recommend to a company which employs him as a consultant, MB McNamara Construction Ltd, that it carry out "whatever works are agreed" at cost, without a profit for the company.

He also insists that owners of 43 duplex units are not affected, as their homes do not share common lobbies and are not subject to any of the works.

Irish Independent

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