An Bord Plean?la, the Irish Planning Board, last week refused permission to Sean Dunne, the well known Dublin based property developer recently featured in a front-page profile in the Sunday New York Times business section, for a proposed €1.5 billion residential, retail and office development, including a 37-storey tower, which he bought for €450 million. The former Jury's hotel site in Ballsbridge in Dublin, which Dunne assembled at a cost of €379 million, is now worth less than €100 million, experienced auctioneers have estimated, though exact valuations are difficult in today's down turning market. Undeterred by the steep drop in the price or the unfavorable ruling, Dunne announced that he would reapply for planning permission for development of his Ballsbridge site, his company Mountbrook Homes said. In a sharp criticism of An Bord Plean?la and the complicated planning process, Mountbrook added, "The current system is lengthy, expensive, confusing and unworkable." Referring specifically to the rejected scheme, Mountbrook said it would "have broken the mould for Ireland in terms of providing a high-class mixed use development on this strategic site." The company added, "The significant economic benefits and job creation opportunities of the proposed development would have created a much needed boost to Ireland in these current harsh economic times." Dunne told the Irish press on Monday that he believed that an element of snobbery had been attached to the refusal to grant his company planning permission. "At the oral appeal a lot of people and some of the residents referred to themselves as 'people of means.' So I think there is a snobbish element within Ballsbridge about Ballsbridge," he said. "I actually live in Ballsbridge; it is full of very nice people, but there are an element of people who think that they speak for Ireland when they speak for Ballsbridge," he said, in his first public comment since the decision. It argued that "the proposed development had a construction capital investment of €1 billion, it would have provided 970 on-site construction jobs per year for seven years, with an equivalent number off-site, and when completed would have created over 5,400 permanent jobs as well as contributing €400 million to the city's economy each year." In response to the recent planning decision the manager of Dublin City Council, John Tierney, is to prepare a report for councilors on how Dunne was granted planning permission by city planners for his site in Ballsbridge in the first place. Tierney agreed on Monday to prepare the report in time for next month's council meeting after councilors passed two emergency motions calling for an independent investigation into the process that led to Dunne originally being granted permission, when it clearly contravened the city development plan. Dunne denied that the project had been motivated by his ego. "It was never ego. I have a professional pride in everything I do. Development is not about greed; it's about building a country, building an economy. Somebody's got to do it. I was the man who decided to buy this site. I had a vision for it," he said. The board's final assessment was that the scheme's "scale, massing and height" constituted a "gross over-development and over-intensification of use" of the site and said it was "not satisfied that the proposed development would bring about a high-quality environment for future occupants."
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