Saturday 3 December 2016

Judge gives Longboat Quay development company 18 months to complete fire safety works

Andrew Phelan

Published 24/11/2015 | 16:04

Longboat Quay in Dublin
Longboat Quay in Dublin

THE development company representing residents of Longboat Quay has been given 18 months to complete major fire safety works at the apartment complex.

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A judge gave the company more time to carry out €3.88m of remedial works needed to make the complex in Dublin’s docklands safe.

The decision effectively defers the threat of evacuation that up to 600 residents of the development’s 298 apartments had been under.

Appealing a fire safety notice served by Dublin Fire Brigade in October, Longboat Quay Management Company argued the one-month deadline it had been given to start the works was “manifestly unreasonable.”

The company said the works would take nine months to complete and it did not yet have the money.

Its legal representative said safety improvements had already been carried out which would reduce safety risks.

Judge Michael Coghlan agreed to the time extension at an appeal hearing at Dublin District Court today, saying it was a “unique case.”

However, he voiced concerns that he was being put in the position of having to deal with the “potential for disaster” in the meantime.

He granted an order confirming the fire safety notice but with an extension of time until May 30, 2017 for the completion of the work, which will have to start at some point in 2016.

Dublin City Council’s opinion is that the complex “continues to be a potentially dangerous building” until the remedial works are finished, its lawyer said.

Longboat Quay was served with a fire safety notice on October 2 after the buildings were found to have serious deficiencies.

According to the notice, essential remedial works were to have begun by November 1.

Barrister Patrick Leonard SC, for the management company, argued today that this was “manifestly unreasonable” because the works required would cost €3.88 million and would take around nine months to complete.

He said there were four items in the fire notice, with three of the items already addressed.

The fourth item was a requirement to carry out “very substantial works.” The management company agreed the works were necessary and wished to carry them out but could not do so without being able to pay for them, Mr Leonard said.

He said Longboat Quay Management Company has brought High Court proceedings against DDDA and other parties over liability for funding the fire safety works.

Mr Leonard said he expected these proceedings to be heard in the Commercial Court in April or May next year, with a judgement “shortly thereafter.”

He said works costing €1 million had already been carried out to improve the fire detection and alarm system, and these had significantly improved safety for the residents and commercial units.

A risk improvement survey was undertaken by a risk management consultant to identify short term measures to reduce risks pending the major works.

These were 90pc complete and would be finished by the end of this week.

The consultant had said there was a now a “greatly reduced” risk in the building, Mr Leonard told the court.

He was hopeful that insurance on the building would be renewed.

Karen Denning BL, for Dublin City Council, said she sympathised with the management company’s situation.

She accepted that the first three items in the fire notice were being complied with but added: “the longer it goes on, the greater the risk of something happening.”

She accepted that the risk was known about since a 2014 report.

“I am aware that it is a special case,” Judge Coghlan said."I can understand that perhaps this notice is more common to the type of situation where it’s a fire escape here or a fire escape there.”

However, he said he was being asked to effectively put a stay on the enforcement of the order.

“It puts me in the seat of having to deal with the potential for disaster between now and whenever those works are completed,” he said.

Mr Leonard said he was not attempting to put anything on the long finger and the applicants wanted the works done as soon as possible.

“In the final analysis, this comes down to reasonableness and common sense rather than law,” the judge said.

The court also heard that 15 of the units in the development remained unsold and the €3.88m in works applied mostly to common areas in the complex.

“I am doing it because it’s a unique case, it’s not comparable to a private residence situation,” the judge said, before making the order. “There are complexities that are transparent to all and there are significant sums of money that will come into play.”

Ms Denning said it continued to be the council's opinion that the building was potentially dangerous.

Meanwhile, the Commercial Court case has been adjourned to February. In those proceedings, the  management company is suing DDDA and a Bernard McNamara company, Gendsong Ltd, which built the apartments and is now in receivership.

The case is also against two receivers Declan Taite and Anne O’Dwyer, over some of Gendsong’s assets -  15 apartments in Longboat Quay.

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