Monday 20 January 2020

Ronan files appeal as Kavanagh gets planning for disputed Docklands site

The battle between the two developers has escalated, writes Gavin McLoughlin

An aerial depiction of the contested sites in the docklands
An aerial depiction of the contested sites in the docklands

Gavin McLoughlin

The bitter row between Greg Kavanagh's New Generation and Johnny Ronan's Ronan Real Estate Group over a site in the Dublin docklands has escalated, with Ronan lodging an appeal against a court ruling on the dispute that went in Kavanagh's favour.

The appeal was lodged shortly before New Generation was granted planning permission by Dublin City Council for a significant mixed-use development at the site.

Their plan involves building a six to seven-storey apartment block comprising 91 units, and a seven-storey block with space for shops, offices and gym. There will also be a further six-storey development comprising two blocks, one with space for shops and offices and another with shops and 45 apartments. A new street extending from Cardiff Lane to Hanover Street East will be constructed under the plan.

Hibernia REIT owns a small three-storey house on a section of the site, which under the current plans would be flanked by two new buildings constructed by Kavanagh's group. It did not comment on its plans for the house. But documents filed by the listed company, which is run by ex-Leinster rugby star Kevin Nowlan, show it had raised concerns about sunlight - adding that the house would effectively "sit as an island" within Kavanagh's planned residential scheme.

But Kavanagh's project could be delayed by Ronan's appeal, lodged in court at the end of last month.

The row relates to a number of strips at the site where a Kavanagh-linked company owns the leasehold interests and a Ronan-linked company owns freehold interests. Kavanagh is seeking to acquire Ronan's freehold interests in the strips via a statutory procedure involving an application to the Dublin County Registrar. The registrar is to hear the application at the end of November.

The Kavanagh company, Balark Investments, had brought an action against the Ronan-linked Chambury Investment Company after Chambury issued so-called forfeiture notices over alleged covenant breaches relating to the strips.

Counsel for Balark told the court that the reliefs his client sought were "required to ensure the defendant cannot implement its game plan and try and frustrate the plaintiff in the acquisition of the freeholds of the premises in the first instance, and then in pursuing this development and selling the units in the development".

Greg Kavanagh Picture: Gerry Mooney
Greg Kavanagh Picture: Gerry Mooney

Mr Justice Hedigan in the High Court ruled that the forfeiture notices were invalid and awarded costs against Chambury, with a stay on the costs order subject to a potential appeal, which has now been filed.

Both New Generation and Ronan declined to comment on the lodging of the appeal. A source close to Ronan said: "It's Ronan's land and nobody will be able to build on it unless they reach an agreement with him."

Both sides of the dispute have been conducting business with UK-based M&G - an arm of the insurance giant Prudential. M&G helped finance Ronan's exit from Nama, alongside Colony Capital, while M&G is New Generation's major financial backer. M&G declined to comment on the dispute.

The Hickey site is not the only major project for which Ronan and Kavanagh have competed. They were the two highest bidders for a site at Spencer Dock on the northside of the River Liffey, with Ronan's bid prevailing.

That six-acre site has planning permission for 340,000 sq ft of office space, 165 apartments and a hotel with 169 bedrooms. Ronan has been exploring the potential to build student accommodation at the site. He is also set to build a €200m six-storey office block development at Ballsbridge in Dublin, with capacity for over 2,000 workers.

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