Wednesday 19 December 2018

Florentine contractor looks for apartments

Developer wants to build 27 apartments with shopping centre

Mary Fogarty

Developers of the Florentine Centre in Bray have asked to include 27 apartments to the project, located on a site between Quinsboro Road and Florence Road.

This came to light at a recent meeting of Bray Municipal District in an update from the District Manager, Des O'Brien.

Oakmount, parent company of Navybrook and developer of the scheme, expect to be on-site in a matter of weeks.

Cllr Joe Behan has expressed concern about what he says are 'significant alterations' to the proposed car park for the new Florentine Centre. He said that at the district meeting, members heard that an underground car parking area has been agreed.

'We were further told that the developer has suggested additional radical alterations to allow him to develop apartments instead of shopping units.

'This is despite the fact that the project has been signed off by Councillors and An Bord Pleanala and the developer was understood to have accepted all aspects of the proposed development before his tender bid was accepted,' said Cllr Behan.

'It now appears that underground car parking is replacing surface level car parking even though the council had specifically decided against underground parking for various reasons. It also appears that the developer would stand to gain enormously from any move to replace first floor shopping units with apartments and this gain would be at the expense of the taxpayers and citizens of Bray and the county,' he said.

Responding to Cllr Behan's concerns, Mr O'Brien said in a statement that Oakmount have enquired about adding a small number of residential units to the scheme.

'It is acknowledged that while residential units would be desirable in the town centre, for passive security and vibrancy reasons, procedures with respect to planning and procurement need to be addressed.

'We told Oakmount we would inform the councillors of this request at its next meeting, and pending their feedback, advised Oakmount not to prepare any related drawings.'

Mr O'Brien said that the majority of the councillors gave a cautious welcome but were non-committal until they had an opportunity to study the proposals and drawings.

'We have therefore now asked Oakmount to supply drawings, which will be circulated to the councillors. This will be on the agenda for the June meeting, where the councillors may make a decision as to whether or not they would support the commencement of a planning process in this regard. Any contribution for residential in this scheme will be extra to the bid amount received for the site and will be decided by a valuer.'

Cllr Behan said that the normal planning system for regular planning applications for ordinary citizens will be by-passed if councillors agree in principle.

'This is completely and absolutely outrageous,' he said. 'A major developer in this country is being allowed to make and propose significant changes to a development after the tender process is completed and whereby he stands to make huge additional profits at the taxpayers' expense.'

In relation to parking, Cllr Behan said that no alternative car parking has been put in place for when the car park on the Florentine site closes.

The members were informed at the May meeting that the council is attempting to source alternative parking in the old Bray golf course off Ravenswell Road.

Once agreement is reached with the owners of the land, this area will accommodate 120 to 130 cars.

The extension to the Herbert Road Car Park will be completed in August to provide 50 extra spaces. The council is also in contact with other private organisations for the use of existing parking in the town centre.

The target for completion of the planned shopping centre is Christmas 2019.

Bray People