Friday 24 November 2017

Council accused of 'bad faith' by offer of lands to Clerys redevelopment

D2 Private chief executive Deirdre Foley
D2 Private chief executive Deirdre Foley
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Dublin City Council has defended allowing the company behind the controversial redevelopment of Clerys to include public lands in its planning application

The council has told developers OCS Properties Ltd that it can include the road and footpath at Earl Place and Sackville Place in its application, which would facilitate access to the proposed development.

The move was slammed as an act of bad faith by the Labour Party leader on the city council, Dermot Lacey, who said councillors should have been informed, especially as so many had expressed outrage at the treatment of Clerys workers.

The council said the letter outlining consent was "standard", and that it did not intend to sell the lands. "The intention of the planning application is to facilitate an upgrade in the quality of the public realm in question," it said.

Clerys became mired in controversy in June last year after it was sold to Natrium, a joint venture between D2 Private, whose chief executive is Deirdre Foley, and a UK company, Cheyne Capital Management.

Clery’s was restructured in 2012 as part of a receivership process by its previous owners and bankers which resulted in the property assets being separated into one company, and the day-to-day retail business operation put in another.

When the operating company went into liquidation more than 130 staff who were directly employed by OCS Operations Limited were made redundant without any warning. An additional 330 staff who worked for other concession companies that operated within the Clery’s building may also have lost their jobs or been relocated to other outlets. The State paid statutory redundancy to workers totalling €2.5m.

The Workplace Relations Commission has undertaken an investigation in respect of the failure to provide OCS employees with the requisite 30 days’ notice of redundancy, but the powers used by the WRC at D2 Private's office have been challenged in the High Court by D2 Private. The High Court has yet to rule.

Planning files published by the council state that part of the project includes 'Boutique Food and Beverage Inspiration and Aspiration', to be located on Earl Place and Earl Street North. In a letter, dated July 19 last, the council gives consent to the developers, OCS Properties Ltd, to include the public road and footpath at Earl Place and Sackville Place in the planning application.

Former Clerys worker Susie Gaynor-McGowan, who is part of the Justice for Clerys Workers group, said the council appeared to be ignoring the wishes of councillors who had supported their campaign.

But Cllr Lacey said local politicians should have been informed of the move.

"Everybody wants to see that building used again properly, but there is a basic fairness here. Why should people who engage in these practices be allowed make even more money?" he said. "They (the officials) should exercise their judgment with some degree of respect for the political make up of the council. Knowing the councillors had expressed very serious reservations about Clerys, for officials to do so without reference to the councillors was an act of bad faith."

OCS intends redeveloping the iconic store, adding an extra storey to the building and including an hotel, offices and shops.

Irish Independent

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