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D4 protest fails as Dunne wins office block battle

DEVELOPER Sean Dunne has been handed a boost after his plans for an office development in Ballsbridge were approved.

The Dublin City Council ruling came despite strong objections from the local community, including businessman tycoon Dermot Desmond and top barrister James O'Reilly.

Given the level of opposition, the council decision is likely to be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

Mountbrook Riverside IV Investment, of which Mr Dunne is a director, had applied for permission to demolish Hume House on Pembroke Road.

The proposal is to knock down the eight- to nine-storey block, one of the tallest buildings in the suburb, and replace it with another nine-storey complex.

Objecting to the scheme, James O'Reilly said the application was based on the premise that Ballsbridge required more office development.

In a letter to the council, he added that there was a "gross over-supply" of these types of schemes throughout the city.

"The application is symptomatic of the chaos that has descended upon the Irish property market," said Mr O'Reilly, who has an address on nearby Raglan Road. A spokesman for Mr Dunne did not comment.

Mr Desmond also came out against the project, saying any proposal to replace the "ugly" Hume House was "critically important".

He said there was a "sound planning basis" to refuse the application, citing the "absence of a guiding planning strategy for the area" as a reason.

Among the other objectors were heritage body An Taisce and local residents' associations.

The good news for Dunne comes after banks had taken a significant stake in his Ballsbridge property empire.

Dunne acquired the Hume House property near the market peak in a deal which valued Hume House at around €130m.

The deal subsequently became the subject of a legal dispute with estate agents CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), which alleged Mr Dunne had withheld some of the fees for the transaction.

Mr Dunne had counter-claimed that CBRE had advised him to buy Hume House for €130m, when the nearest competing bid was €102m and its true value was between €65m and €95m. CBRE said it advised Mr Dunne it could not justify significantly more than €65m for the property.

It denied its directors had persuaded him to bid €130m.

Following a court hearing, the two parties reached an out- of-court settlement.