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‘I’ve told them how much I want’: How one man’s objection cast doubt on the proposed expansion of a Dublin apartment block

South Dublin homeowner paid €20,000 by developer sought further €80,000 ‘compensation’ to not appeal planning decision

Tucked away about 10 minutes walk from Merrion Road, Bellevue is a quiet residential estate backing on to Elm Park in the heart of south Dublin.

Patrick Sheeran (75), a former chartered surveyor, bought a house with his wife at the end of a small road on Bellevue Park Avenue in 1988. The modest house has a decent-sized back garden, which today includes a small putting green, flowerpots of daffodils, and a table and chairs where the couple previously often ate dinner outside on sunny days.

The Celtic Tiger period saw significant housing developments and office blocks built in the Elm Park site neighbouring the estate, which can be seen from Mr Sheeran’s back garden. A new nine-storey apartment block overlooking their home resulted in Mr Sheeran coming into conflict with the company behind the housing project, Red Rock Developments.

The developer, Keith Craddock, is seeking to add an extra floor to the 77-apartment development at Elmpark Green, which has recently been finished. Red Rock Developments sought planning permission last November to expand the nine-storey development and add a 10th storey accommodating an extra two penthouse apartments.

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Mr Sheeran had objected to the expansion when it was being considered by Dublin City Council (DCC) and, after it received planning approval, he appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) this year.

Correspondence seen by The Irish Times shows Mr Sheeran previously offered to withdraw his initial objection to the extra floor, in exchange for a payment of €50,000 and a commitment that the developer provide a sports pitch for children in Elmpark Green.

The sole objection to the planning application had been made by Mr Sheeran on December 5th, 2023, stating the site was been overdeveloped.

The local residents’ association also had issues with the apartment development. However, following talks to Red Rock Developments the group did not lodge an objection to the proposed 10th storey. One individual involved in the association said it opted to take a “pragmatic approach”, negotiating for some extra landscaping works and trees to be planted.

Documents show the developer offered to make a financial payment to the residents’ association, to cover some of its costs. A December 9th notice of a meeting advised residents that the developer had “offered to make a contribution towards the legal and planning expenses we have incurred to date”. One senior figure in the association said the terms of any agreement with the developer were confidential.

On foot of this, Mr Sheeran sought to strike a deal with the developer to withdraw his objection to the apartment development, in exchange for a payment and other terms.

In a December 20th letter, Mr Sheeran said a €50,000 fee would cover the “extensive work” he had carried out on the project on behalf of a residents’ association, which he said had taken up “a very substantial amount of my professional time”.

The letter to Mr Craddock said he would also require commitments that a section of ground be levelled to create a sports field for children to play. “That will conclude my past, present and future involvement of any kind whatsoever in the matter of Elmpark Green, in perpetuity,” he wrote.

Along with the letter he sent an invoice for €50,000, listing services he provided as “chartered surveyor planning & development consultancy 2020-2023″.

In a January 8th response, law firm AMOSS, acting for Red Rock Developments, stated Mr Sheeran had provided no services to the developer. The letter alleged the request for financial payment was “at the very least an abuse of process” and a breach of “professional ethics”.

It said if his planning objection was not withdrawn the developer would make a criminal complaint to the Garda. If an appeal was taken to ABP the firm would seek to show it was “vexatious, frivolous and without substance”.

In a January 15th letter, Mr Sheeran reiterated his invoice was for the developer to cover services he provided for the residents’ group, from which he had stepped back in early 2023. He rejected the claim that his planning objection was vexatious, adding that the apartment development had seriously devalued his home.

Mr Sheeran said he and his wife had planned to sell up and retire to Co Offaly, having previously hoped to get upwards of €800,000 for the south Dublin property. They were now facing a “dramatic” drop in the value of their home, as a result of “the loss of sunlight to our formerly beautiful back garden”, he wrote. The former chartered surveyor queried whether the developer was open to a “pragmatic and ethical business resolution”.

Following a further back and forth the developer proposed making a payment of €15,000, if Mr Sheeran withdrew his objection and DCC granted planning permission. Lawyers for Red Rock Developments said the alternative was that a report would be made to the Garda and the developer would sue Mr Sheeran “for losses suffered”.

In January 19th correspondence, Mr Sheeran said his motivation had always been to prevent poor planning, such as building “on land set aside as public open space”. Despite that, he said he would accept “the insignificant sum of €30,000 in compensation for the current and future loss to the value of my D4 home”. He added as part of the deal Red Rock Developments would “use its best endeavours” to provide a sports field for local children.

As planners in the local authority were about to make a decision, lawyers for the developer ramped up efforts to agree a deal.

In a January 22nd email, Killian Morris, a partner at AMOSS, told Mr Sheeran €20,000 was on the table, if the council approved the planning application. “My client has asked me to emphasise that the withdrawal of the objection by close of business today is critical. If this is not done, the above agreement will no longer apply,” Mr Morris wrote.

Later that day Mr Sheeran wrote to the council requesting the objection he had made against the Elmpark Green development the month before be withdrawn. By that stage the planner’s report was already written and two days later DCC granted permission for the revised plans.

The developer’s lawyers said €10,000 would be sent to Mr Sheeran’s account when he confirmed he would not appeal the decision to ABP, with the second €10,000 transferred after the window to appeal closed.

Instead the resident sent a revised claim, seeking €100,000 from the developer as compensation for the loss of light to his back garden and devaluation of his home.

In February 9th correspondence, Mr Sheeran said he would accept “one discounted payment for compensation in full and final settlement of €100,000″. If those terms were met he said he would “not be making a submission of objection ... to An Bord Pleanála”.

Records show AMOSS transferred €20,000 to Mr Sheeran on February 14th, which Mr Morris wrote “now completes matters between you and our client”.

In a message to Mr Craddock, Mr Sheeran acknowledged the payment but said it related to a previous agreement for “token compensation”, which had expired. “As per the lodgement made, a further payment of €80k by tomorrow will conclude this matter in every respect,” he wrote.

When no further payment was made, the council’s decision to grant permission for the two extra apartments was appealed to ABP by Mr Sheeran, on the basis the increase in height was not justified.

A decision from the planning board on the appeal could take at least a year due to the backlog of cases. This means the developer will have to let the existing nine storeys lie empty while waiting for the ruling, or abandon plans for the extra floor.

Sitting in his kitchen in early March, Mr Sheeran rejected any suggestion he had been seeking “go-away money” from the developer to drop his planning objections.

His “top priority” had been to secure a commitment for a green space that children living in the apartments could use as a sports field, he said. “If there’s a sports field and no 10th floor, that’s a win for me, I don’t need the money, it’s not about money,” he said.

His initial request for €50,000 had been on the basis the developer had offered to pay some of the fees the residents’ association ran up, he said. “I wrote to [Red Rock] saying I’d accept 50k, being €33 an hour, whereas my rate is €170 an hour, so 20 per cent of the fee, I thought that was fair,” he said.

Mr Sheeran said he had put a “huge amount” of work into organising the association’s opposition to the development. “I’m not demanding money from anybody, they’ve said they’re going to make a contribution towards fees, well I’m the one that arranged the whole goddamn thing and this is my fee,” he said. “So I said give me 20 per cent of my fees, in compensation, and I’ll walk away from the thing.”

The apartment block had devalued his property and the peaceful enjoyment of his home, as well as limited light coming into his garden, he said. On a sunny day his back garden had been his “piece of Tuscany”, before the new development had cut off the light, he said. He said he considered a €100,000 settlement to be “heavily discounted and acceptable compensation”.

“I’ve told them how much I want, in full and final settlement. If they pay me that, then I don’t have a claim and it follows that I withdraw from the process and I withdraw the submission, that’s it, quid pro quo,” Mr Sheeran said.

While the developer had paid him €20,000, that was only a fifth of the fee he had sought as part of a new proposed agreement in February to not appeal the matter to ABP. “I gave them five days if they wanted to settle it, they didn’t settle it, they didn’t settle the €100,000, and I lodged the submission [with ABP],” he said. “I gave them an opportunity, they weren’t interested in paying my compensation. That’s fine.”

A spokeswoman for Red Rock Developments said the company “cannot comment on this matter at this time”.