Thursday 14 November 2019

Concerns that 'new deal' with Bartra Capital for development of O’Devaney Gardens could be challenged

The O’Devaney Gardens site has lain derelict for years. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The O’Devaney Gardens site has lain derelict for years. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

THE Dublin Agreement Group of councillors did not engage with the Department of Housing on the ‘new deal’ with Bartra Capital for the development of O’Devaney Gardens.

And can reveal there are concerns at a senior level that the deal could leave the council open to legal challenge from under-bidders for the contract.

Yesterday, as protesters stormed Dublin City Council chamber, councillors voted to agree to transfer publicly-owned land at the north Dublin site to the developer to build 768 units - 411 to be sold privately.

READ MORE: Protests as O'Devaney Gardens housing deal is approved by council

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Work continues on the construction site at the O’Devaney Gardens (Michelle Devane/PA)
Work continues on the construction site at the O’Devaney Gardens (Michelle Devane/PA)

Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Social Democrats and the Green Party announced earlier a new deal that would see an Approved Housing Body (AHB) given first refusal on 30pc of the houses for private sale.

These would be used in an affordable-rent scheme, in addition to the 20pc affordable and 30pc social housing already stipulated during the tendering process.

In a letter, seen by, from Bartra CEO Michael Flannery clarifying the offer, the company said the Department of Housing should inform it “in relation to funding commitments” for the buying option.

This was “to provide certainty to Bartra in relation to its sales and marketing strategy for the private units”.

However, when asked about the department’s response on funding for the new deal, a spokesman made it clear it had no role. “Councillors did not engage on any detail with the department,” he said.

READ MORE: New deal for Bartra Capital development of O’Devaney Gardens will need more than €60m in funding

Eoghan Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)
Eoghan Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

To purchase 30pc of the private sale properties at the site at market value will cost upwards of €60m, with the cost to be borne by an AHB.

An original vote to dispose of the land on the back of the proposal was last month postponed after it looked unlikely to pass.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy accused councillors of hypocrisy and threatening funding could be pulled.

Hailing the new deal on Monday, councillors said it was “not perfect”, but said they were dealing with a “deeply imperfect situation” and called on Mr Murphy to resign.

READ MORE: Minister yet to meet with developer over controversial plan for 'affordable' housing scheme at O'Devaney Gardens site

However, a note from council deputy chief Brendan Kenny to councillors effectively informed them they were voting on the original agreement because the new deal “will be a private sale by Bartra”.

“[It] will not affect the proposed agreement with Dublin City Council resulting from their successful tender which is the subject of the Disposal Notice [for the land],” it said.

The note was understood as an attempt to pre-empt any challenge by other interested developers at the time of tender.

Housing body Cluid tonight suggested it would be open to taking up the 30pc option of private houses on the site.

“Cluid Housing welcomes Dublin City Council’s decision to approve plans for the redevelopment of the O’Devaney Gardens site,” it said.

“To date, Cluid has delivered over 7,000 homes across Ireland and has an ambitious delivery programme that will see many more homes delivered in the coming years.

“Cluid has the ability, resources and experience to deliver the planned housing on the O’Devaney Gardens site.

“We will continue to work in partnership with Dublin City Council and warmly welcome the opportunity to further build upon our established relationship.”

READ MORE: 'A poor deal' - Lord Mayor of Dublin criticises Council plan to give public land at O’Devaney Gardens to a private developer

Other AHBs suggested they were not interested in taking up the purchase offer at this stage.

“At this time we’re not planning on it,” a spokeswoman for Respond said.

“We would certainly look at it but the scale of what’s on offer, generally it would be beyond the scale of the Trust,” said a spokesman for the Iveagh Trust.

READ MORE: Rory Hearne: 'Some serious political noise needs to be made if our dysfunctional housing system is to be fixed'

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