Saturday 24 February 2018

Council throws out Ires Reit's €170m plan for 500 flats

An artist’s impression of Ires Reit’s plans for the Rockbrook site
An artist’s impression of Ires Reit’s plans for the Rockbrook site
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The State's biggest private landlord, Irish Residential Properties (Ires) Reit, has been refused permission for a huge €170m development of almost 500 apartments at Sandyford in south Dublin.

It's a major blow for the property investment firm, which is listed on the stockmarket with a market capitalisation of €517m.

The scheme, comprising three 14-storey blocks, would have meant the completion of a project that was granted permission in 2005, for 900 apartments. More than 400 have already been built.

Ires Reit had predicted that the new units would cost about €270,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and €350,000 for a two-bedroom flat. That would have reaped more than €143m in sales for 410 two-bedroom units, and another €22m for 82 one-bedroom flats.

But Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council has told Ires Reit, which is backed by Canada's Capreit, that the proposed buildings would have an overbearing impact and would be "visually unacceptable".

It added that the planned development would also detract from the visual dominance of the unfinished Sentinel building at the Rockbrook site. The incomplete Sentinel building was acquired by Galway-born developers Luke and Brian Comer for less than €1m in 2012.

"The proposed development would set an undesirable precedent, seriously injure the amenities of property in the vicinity and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area," the council said of the planned Ires apartment scheme, which would also have included a crèche and retail unit.

A number of objections had been lodged to the proposed scheme, including one from An Taisce.

The overall Rockbrook scheme was originally started before the property crash by Cork developer John Fleming.

The local council also warned Ires Reit that any future planning application for the three-hectare site would need to address other "significant issues" related to landscaping, drainage, amenity and transport.

When Ires Reit applied for the planning permission last September, its chief executive, David Ehrlich, said Housing Minister Simon Coveney's initiative to "rationalise planning regulations" had had a "positive effect" on the ability of the company to progress its plans for the project.

It had expected the scheme to take 15 months to build.

Its planners had told the council that, in its present state, the Rockbrook site was a "disjointed, fragmented place".

In rejecting the plans submitted by Ires Reit, the council said that proposed development would "not provide for a high quality living environment for future residents".

The council added: "The applicant is advised that there are a number of significant issues in addition to the above reasons for refusal that need to be addressed in any future planning application for this site."

Ires Reit owns nearly 2,400 apartments and has been planning to build more than 600. The company floated on the stock exchange in 2014.

Last year, it made a €47m profit, a 53pc increase on the amount it made in 2015.

The average monthly rent being charged by the firm for its thousands of properties, which are almost entirely fully let, was €1,427 last year compared to €1,372 in 2015.

Many of its tenants face further rent hikes this year, with a substantial number of its properties eligible for rent reviews in 2017.

Releasing its results in February, Mr Ehrlich said that the objective of Ires since it commenced operations in Ireland had been to "bring a new positive experience to tenants by providing a professionally managed product which meets the needs of the market while adequately rewarding our shareholders".

"I believe we have delivered on both of these objectives to date," he said.

The property investment firm acquired 763 apartments last year. It finalised a deal to buy 443 apartments in Tallaght, south Dublin, from Nama for €83m.

The firm also agreed to pay €59m to buy 201 apartments at Elm Park, beside St Vincent's Private Hospital in the capital. Elm Park was developed in 2006 by Bernard McNamara, Jerry O'Reilly and David Courtney.

Irish Independent

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