Wednesday 24 October 2018

Moves to develop palatial 250-acre former home of Charlie Haughey

The main house at Abbeville in Kinsealy is a listed building
The main house at Abbeville in Kinsealy is a listed building
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

A wealthy Japanese family who snapped up the palatial former home of Charlie Haughey at the bottom of the market have begun moves to redevelop the 250-acre Dublin estate.

The Abbeville estate was once earmarked for thousands of new homes, before being taken into receivership and sold during the crash.

Now, papers filed with the Companies Office show that a new firm, using the alternative spelling of Abbeyville Properties Ltd, was incorporated over the summer, with an address at the sprawling Kinsealy, Co Dublin, property.

The move indicates that development may again be in train at Abbeville, where the 18th-century, James Gandon-designed, 14-bedroom mansion is surrounded by 250 acres of agricultural land within striking distance of Dublin city.

The mansion was the home of the late Taoiseach for 37 years until his death in 2006.

The Haughey family sold the estate in 2003 to businessman Joe Moran's Manor Park Homes. It planned to turn the main property into a luxury hotel and spa and to build thousands of homes on the land.

However, that plan, which would have required having the land rezoned, fell victim to the housing bust.

The property was eventually sold by receivers Kavanagh Fennells in 2013 for just €5.5m to the Nishida family of Japan, a deal that epitomised the collapse in the price of development land in the wake of the housing bust.

The family own the Toyoko Inn chain of more than 250 budget hotels, mainly in their home country, though with offshoots as far afield as France and Germany. The wealthy family had little involvement in Ireland before buying Abbeville, but a former Irish ambassador to Japan, Brendan Scannell, has long been chairman of the group's international division, Toyoko Inn International, and is listed as a director of the new Abbeyville Properties company, alongside Japanese national Takashi Miyauchi.

Accounts for Irish-registered company Toyoko Inn International, the Japanese company's international trading arm, also lists Abbeyville as its address and the companies share some common directors.

The main house is a listed building. Planning permission was previously granted to convert it into a 70-bedroom hotel but later lapsed. More recently, permission has been sought from Fingal County Council to refurbish old stable yards that had fallen into an advanced state of disrepair.

The rest of the estate is currently zoned for leisure purposes. Any large-scale residential development will therefore still require rezoning, as well as planning permission.

When planning was sought to restore the stables, the owners indicated that they were in the process of preparing an overall 'masterplan' for the Abbeville estate, but so far the company has remained tightlipped on those proposals.

In relation to the latest moves, the directors could not be reached for comment.

Toyoko Inn is known as a no-frills, three-star hotels operator and employs more than 8,000 people.

The business is headed up by Maiko Kuroda, daughter of founder Norimasa Nishida. Since taking the helm in 2008, she has led the expansion into new markets, including Germany, France and the US, and has stood out in male-dominated Japanese business for advancing women in her hotel chain.

Ninety-seven per cent of the company's hotels are run by women.

Irish Independent

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