Monday 22 January 2018

Developer denies damaging historic Mountjoy houses


A property developer has denied he is damaging buildings of immense historical and architectural importance on Mountjoy Square -- Dublin's 'forgotten' Georgian square.

Renovation work has been taking place on two of the city's most historical buildings in Dublin's north city centre. The square was once home to numerous prominent figures, including brewer Arthur Guinness and playwright Sean O'Casey.

Recently proposed as an Architectural Conservation Area, a specially protected district by Dublin City Council, the square is said to be Dublin's only 'true' Georgian square as it measures equal lengths on all sides with a perfect symmetrical layout.

Only a few months ago the council was inundated by letters from internationally prominent people calling for the protection of Mountjoy Square, precisely to deter potentially substandard development.

Mayo developer John O'Connor, who owns numbers 1 and 2, which he is turning into apartments, recently approached the Simon Community about leasing the buildings, but it told him they were not suitable for its purposes.

Aside from the architectural value, the listed houses are noted for their heritage: number 1 was home to 'Tiger' Tim Healy, Home Rule MP and first Governor General of the Irish Free State. Number 2 was home to James Whiteside, a barrister who defended Daniel O'Connell and was later Lord Chief Justice in Ireland.

Dublin City Council has confirmed that, following a number of complaints, it has opened a planning enforcement file in relation to the matter.

"An endangerment notice was issued in relation to these properties under Section 59 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 on August 13, 2010.

"This notice required that all works that would endanger the buildings cease and specified repair works be carried out within three months. This notice has been responded to and a commitment given that no works that endanger the properties are or will be carried out."

Owner Mr O'Connor has given an undertaking that his architect will submit a schedule of works for assessment by the council's conservation section. The properties will be monitored in the meantime.

Mr O'Connor has defended the works, stating: "We are not carrying out any structural works there at the moment and all works being carried out are decorative only, outside of works that the city council have ordered to be carried out such as repairing leaks in the building and removing any vegetation.

"I may have been in discussions with Simon about renting it, but I did not say as a hostel."

Sunday Independent

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