Saturday 17 August 2019

'Tedious and expensive' - Kennys' anger in fight to stop development

Couple lose faith in planning system as apartments beside home get go-ahead

Time-consuming: Pat and Kathy Kenny. Inset right, an artist’s impression of how the development will look when built. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Time-consuming: Pat and Kathy Kenny. Inset right, an artist’s impression of how the development will look when built. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Gordon Deegan

Time-consuming, tedious, expensive and fundamentally unfair.

That is how one of Ireland's best-known broadcasters, Pat Kenny, and his wife, Kathy, described their battle to stop a €10m apartment and housing development from proceeding beside their Dalkey home.

And that was even before An Bord Pleanála - in a surprise decision this week - gave the project the green light.

The appeals board granted Richard Barrett's Bartra Capital planning permission even though its own inspector strongly recommended refusal.

The inspector's recommendation followed a comprehensive refusal by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council last year and opposition by locals.

In the 'winner-takes-all' situation, the Kennys are now left with nothing but the prospect of bulldozers moving in to start work on the 18 flats and six houses beside their 'Anchorage' property - revised down from an original plan of 19 apartments and seven houses.

Mr Kenny said this week that the density for the development is more akin to a city centre location than one in Dalkey.

However, the appeals board disagreed - stating that the proposal would be in accordance with the zoning objective for the site; consistent with national and local planning policy; and would not seriously injure residential amenities in terms of overlooking or overbearing.

Now, documentation released by An Bord Pleanála shows that the Kennys' opposition to the plan became all-consuming for the couple over the past few months.

The records show that the Kennys made four separate written submissions - three of them substantial - to An Bord Pleanála since the start of the year concerning the appeal.

And tensions between the Kennys and the developers were heightened by a drone survey carried out on their property without their knowledge in February.

This prompted the couple to fire out three separate formal complaints in March to gardaí, the Data Protection Commissioner and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

Consultants for Bartra told An Bord Pleanála that the drone survey was carried out in accordance with GDPR and with the IAA's permission.

However, the couple told a local superintendent in a letter that their privacy had been interfered with and their security compromised.

They stated: "As you may be aware, we have had threatening situations at our home in the past and we place the highest priority on security."

The Kennys also received an apology from a senior official at the planning authority concerning an error in the planning report on the development.

The Kennys' frustration with the appeals process was obvious beyond these issues - in a submission to the appeals board in March, they hit out at the "time-consuming, tedious and expensive" process.

The couple earlier told the board "the experience for us of dealing with this application is fundamentally unfair. For an ordinary citizen to understand the totality of what is proposed by the applicant is almost impossible".

The Kennys also went to the expense of commissioning an expert to illustrate the visual impact of the Bartra development with 3D images to highlight the overlooking building.

Mr Kenny said this week that the omission of an apartment that gave rise to 'Instagram' privacy fears "is a small relief".

As decision day approached, the documents show that the couple's anxiety over the plan increased and they sent off an email "as a matter of urgency" to the appeals board over the non-appearance of an inspector to carry out a site visit at their home in late June.

In the email, the Kennys told the board that the inspector's visit "is vital to a full understanding of how totally inappropriate the application is".

The appeals board replied to the Kennys to say its site inspection was carried out in accordance with all relevant statutory provisions. But it turns out the Kennys need not have worried about the inspector's visit as his recommendation was cast aside by the board.

This week, the Newstalk broadcaster said that he had lost all faith in An Bord Pleanála.

He said that this was the case even before the decision on the apartments, after the State body gave permission for a mixed-use development, also by Bartra Capital, at Bulloch harbour in Dalkey.

Kenny's celebrity status makes him an unlikely candidate to lead the charge for what he calls 'Joe Citizen' against contentious planning decisions for multi-mllion-euro developments, but his views have struck a chord.

Kevin Duff of the An Taisce Dublin City Association said yesterday that he agreed with the broadcaster about An Bord Pleanála.

"An Taisce has noticed a clear pattern in Dublin city since 2012 of the uncritical permitting of development and the blanket ignoring of appellants' or third parties' concerns. Many of these cases involve sensitive sites in the historic core of Dublin city," he said.

"Giving permission against the advice of an inspector who has made a detailed site inspection/report on the proposals should be a very rare occurrence but it is happening frequently."

A spokesman for An Bord Pleanála declined to comment on Mr Duff's remarks.

Meanwhile, Bartra Capital wouldn't be drawn on when the construction work is due to begin.

However, it will be sooner rather than later as Bartra seeks a return on its investment after paying out €3.1m for the majority of the site last August.

For the Kennys, that will be a bitter pill to swallow. They told the board: "We understand the ambition of developers to maximise density and therefore a return to shareholders. They will move on, while those of us who remain will be asked to live with the consequences."

Irish Independent

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