Plans to build more than 400 homes in the grounds of aviation tycoon Ulick McEvaddy’s former mansion in north Dublin have been refused planning permission. The proposal had been strongly opposed by residents of a nearby housing estate known as “Millionaire’s Row” and by a Government minister,
An Bord Pleanála claimed the proposed development of 309 apartments across 13 blocks up to six storeys in height and 102 houses on lands adjoining Auburn House in Malahide, Co Dublin would have a significant adverse impact on the character and setting of the 18th century mansion and its estate which it said were “currently well preserved”.
Auburn House was bought in 1996 by Mr McEvaddy, the high profile businessman who founded Omega Air, before being sold for an undisclosed price in 2019 to UK construction firm Hollybrook, headed by developer Michael Cox.
The three-storey house with 11-bedrooms is a protected structure and would have been preserved under the plans together with follies, walls and woodland adjoining the mansion. Existing stables would have been converted into housing units.
One of Hollybrook’s subsidiaries, Kinwest, had sought planning permission for the development under the fast-track planning process for strategic housing developments.
However, An Bord Pleanála rejected the plans on a number of grounds including concerns that a proposed new access point from Dublin Road would detract from the visual prominence of the historic entrance to Auburn House.
The board said it would be contrary to guidelines governing architectural heritage protection as well as building heights issued by the Government.
It claimed the development would also result in the loss of a significant number of trees and hedgerows given its largely woodland setting had been identified as worthy of preservation under the Fingal Development Plan.
A total of 308 trees – almost a quarter of all trees on the estate – were earmarked for removal.
The board said the plans had also failed to provide a comprehensive assessment of the potential daylight, sunlight and overshadowing impact of the development on adjoining properties.
The project had been strongly opposed by Savaron, a management company representing the 50 residents of the nearby Abington estate, which has been dubbed “Millionaire’s Row” as houses sell for in excess of €2 million.
Abington is home to former Irish soccer captain Robbie Keane and author Celia Ahern and her husband, Nicky Byrne, the radio presenter and former Westlife singer. Other past and current owners of homes in the upmarket estate include singer Ronan Keating; broadcaster Marty Whelan and former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive, David Drumm.
Savaron claimed the application by Kinwest was “procedurally and legally flawed” and also complained about the lack of consultation from the developer.
The Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien, who is a local Green Party TD, expressed concern about the housing density, claiming it was “not in keeping with the relatively rural character of the area and far exceeds the density of surrounding estates”.
Almost 50 third-party submissions were made to An Bord Pleanála about the project with the majority expressing concern about the proposal including those from An Taisce and the Malahide Community Forum.
Many claimed the development was premature pending the completion of a masterplan for the Streamstown area with an objective to facilitate low density development to reflect its character.
They also highlighted the lack of facilities and infrastructure in the area including schools and public transport, while claiming a proposed crèche in one of the apartment blocks would be inadequate.
The proposal to make alterations to Auburn House’s walled garden to facilitate a community building was also criticised.
The development received support from one Malahide resident – high profile mortgage broker, Karl Deeter – who urged locals “to put some faith in the planning system and architects”.
Kinwest’s plans also found favour with Fingal County Council, which concluded that they provided an acceptable and appropriate standard of residential development and recommended that they should be granted planning permission subject to a number of conditions including a reduction in height of the apartment blocks.
However, an inspector with An Bord Pleanála said the development would result in “significant, negative and permanent impact upon the protected structure”.
The inspector said it had “a number of fundamental flaws” and noted there was “an intrinsic relationship between the woodland setting of Auburn House and its heritage value.”