Sunday 25 February 2018

Five-star Westbury warns that development of Nama site could stifle investment at high-end hotel property

The Westbury Hotel
The Westbury Hotel
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

One of the country's best-known hotels - the five-star Westbury off Dublin's Grafton Street - has claimed that construction of a five-storey development on a Nama-controlled site beside its premises will disturb its well-heeled guests and could prejudice investment at the hotel.

Declan Taite of Duff & Phelps acts as receiver of Fincon Developments, which applied for permission last year to demolish the large, three-storey Chatham House and to replace it with a five-storey premises containing retail space, a restaurant and 14 apartments.

Chatham House is currently home to a number of retailers and offices, including The Great Outdoors and the head office of struggling mining firm Kenmare Resources.

It bounds a number of narrow streets off Grafton Street, one of which is directly adjacent to the Westbury, on Balfe Street.

The Westbury Hotel is part of the Doyle Collection that also owns hotels in Cork, London, Bristol and Washington. Hoteliers John and Bernie Gallagher have a major stake in the business.

Planners for the Westbury Hotel told Dublin City Council that they did not believe a five-storey building is appropriate for the location. They said that a planned communal space at the top of the new building could have a "serious adverse effect" on its guests if late-night noise becomes an issue.

The hotel's planners also said that a "wind tunnel effect" could be created on Balfe Street by the new building, which could impact the hotel's main entrance. The Westbury has been engaged with the council to "enliven" the hotel's frontage.

The Westbury hosts about 100,000 overnight guests every year.

The hotel is also concerned that even a convenience shop or a takeaway in the new building would "adversely affect the hotel and its associated high-end shop units, art galleries and quality restaurants".

But the council has granted permission for the development, prompting the Westbury to launch an appeal to An Bord Pleanala.

It has just told the agency that €17m has been invested in the Westbury over the past decade.

Unless stringent mitigation measures are imposed in relation to the redevelopment, the hotel warns that there could be "significant operational impacts" on the premises, which in turn could impact visitor numbers and "prejudice the on-going investment in the hotel which is necessary to maintain its five-star status".

An Bord Pleanala is due to make a decision in the case by the start of January.

Fincon Developments was owned by a company controlled by Albert Farrell, Robert Ball, Catherine Farrell and Celine Ball.

Fincon went into receivership in 2011.

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