Monday 27 January 2020

O'Devaney Gardens deal may leave council open to under-bidders' challenge

Minister Eoghan Murphy
Minister Eoghan Murphy

Concerns have been raised that the new deal for the development of O'Devaney Gardens could leave Dublin City Council open to legal challenge.

The Dublin Agreement Group of councillors - which comprises Fianna Fail, the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats - did not engage with the Department of Housing on the 'new deal' with Bartra Capital for the development, it has emerged.


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

On Monday, as protesters stormed Dublin City Council, 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.

Fianna Fail, 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 due 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 the Herald, from Bartra CEO Michael Flannery clarifying the offer, the company said the Department of Housing should inform it "in relation to funding commitments", regarding 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.

To buy 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 postponed last month 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.

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.

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

"Cluid has the ability, resources and experience to deliver the planned housing on the O'Devaney Gardens site," it said.

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