Vacancy Watch: Matt’s of Cabra on Faussagh Avenue

On Faussagh Avenue, an old pub known locally as Matt’s of Cabra has big broken windows up top, and a crumble of slates around the gable at the centre of the roof.

Weeds and bushes grow up the sides of the building, and a pile of rubbish has been dumped beside massive concrete blocks. A patch of black soot on the ground suggests a past fire.

Local councillors say they have repeatedly tried to contact the people responsible for the site to ask them to clean it up and fence it off, but they haven’t done so.

“It’s destroying the place,” says independent Councillor Cieran Perry. “They are making no effort.”

Richard McCafferty, a representative for R & D Developments – which he says owns the site – says the company has tried to maintain it, but people keep breaking in.

“We have spent hundreds of thousands on it,” he says. “It’s impossible to keep it right. Every time you do something with it, they break into it again.”

R & D Developments is in preliminary talks with An Bord Pleanála about plans for 137 build-to-rent homes, which it intends to lease as social housing to Dublin City Council, he says.

But it’s not clear if the company can trade at the moment. Records from the companies register in the Isle of Man, where R & D Developments is registered, say it was struck off in July 2021.

McCafferty says that was a clerical error.

Tidy Up Time

On 10 September, the council boarded-up the derelict pub due to risk of fire, said independent Councillor Perry. (The council press office hasn’t yet responded to queries about this.)

Perry asked the council to go out because the building was unsafe, and he had tried numerous times to get the owners to secure the site, he says.

Perry says that in November 2018 he contacted Joseph McCaffrey – he was a director of Labinies Limited, which applied in 2018 for planning permission for student housing on the site – to request a site clean-up. But that wasn’t carried out, he says.

More recently, Perry wrote to R & D Developments and to Santiago Capital, a Dublin-based “alternative lender” – whose signs hang on the old pub – to ask them to address the dereliction. “It has been like this for at least four years,” he says.

The site is on the main road in Cabra. “It is a good site and we have no powers to tackle that dereliction,” he says.

The vacant sites levy is a significant deterrent, Perry says. It’s charged at 7 percent of the market value of the land for each year it’s empty. But there are too many loopholes that allow developers to get out of it, he says.

The council can’t force them to clean it up either, says Perry.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council says that the council put the site at 2A Fassaugh Street on the Vacant Sites Register on 26 August 2019.

A “demand for payment” of the levy was served on the owners in January 2021 for all of 2020, they said..

“A site once entered on the Vacant Sites Register cannot subsequently be considered for action under the Derelict Sites Act,” she says. “The Act does not give the Council power to force the owner to clean up the site.”

Both a local Tidy Towns group and activists from the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) have cleaned the site on different occasions, says Perry.

Lots of people in Cabra are really annoyed by the dereliction, says Fine Gael Councillor Colm O’Rourke. “It really is the talk of the town. There is a level of frustration there.”

The pub is becoming a major hazard and parents and grandparents are calling him saying they’re worried about children getting in there and hurting themselves.

Its appearance reflects badly on the area too, O’Rourke says.

He has repeatedly requested that the owners put up hoardings to fence it off. “As far as I can see they haven’t made efforts to properly secure the site.”

Locals have had to go through Santiago Capital to try to contact the owners of the site, he says.

McCafferty, the representative of R & D Developments, said the owners have tried to board-up the site but it was repeatedly broken into and there was a fire.

There has been illegal dumping there and some young people broke in and had a rave in it too, he says.

“Between ourselves and the guards, we are absolutely tortured,” says McCafferty. “We have had four and a half years of shite up there.”

“You should be doing a piece on the anti-social behaviour of the locals up there instead of the developers that are trying to clean up the place,” he said.

He hopes to progress the plans for the build-to-rent homes, which they plan to lease to the council, said McCafferty.

“We are constantly trying to fix stuff up,” he says. “We actually get quite annoyed when these councillors come along thinking that they are the saviours of the planet.”

Vacant Sites Levy

Dublin City Council placed 2A Faussagh Avenue on the vacant sites register in August of 2019 and issued a demand for payment of the levy in March this year.

R & D Developments is appealing that, according to An Bord Pleanála’s website.

The owners have done their best to manage the site and they are trying to develop it, says McCafferty.

They applied for planning permission to build student housing on it in 2018, he said, which they got later that year.

But, he says, Dublin City Council had granted too many permissions for student accommodation, and the market was saturated. So they changed plans, he says.

“It’s not like we haven’t been doing anything,” says McCafferty. “We had corona for 18 months.”

Perry says a hearing on the appeal of the vacant sites levy is due to take place soon.

Tracking the Owners

Perry, the independent councillor, said Joseph McCaffrey was the person responsible for the site and that he hadn’t been responding to correspondence about it.

But McCaffrey said by email on 20 September that he has “never had any responsibility for the site”.

He acted as project manager for the earlier planning application for 224 student beds, he says.

But the site is owned by R & D Developments Limited, and the “owners’ representative” is Richard McCafferty, he says.

“Take Notice If you publish my name Joseph McCaffrey […] in any articles associated with this site we will be forced to raise legal proceedings against you and your publishers and any associates for damaging our good name,” says McCaffrey.

Joseph McCaffrey is named as a director of R & D Developments in R & D Developments’ annual return for 2019 and, its most recent one,for 2020, dated 27 January 2021.

He says the companies registration office may not have updated its files, due to Covid-19.

Company records also show that R & D Developments wasstruck off the companies register in the Isle of Man in July 2021.

A spokesperson for the companies registry in the Isle of Man says R&D Developments was struck off because it didn’t have a registered agent in the Isle of Man.

There is a process they can pursue to get back on though, he says.

A company that has been struck off the register can’t trade or do any business apart from a couple of exceptions, such as continuing with legal proceedings initiated before the strike-off, or applying to get back on the register, according to Section 185 of the Isle of Man’s Companies Act 2006,

“The company is not struck off,” says Richard McCafferty. “That was a clerical error and it’s getting sorted.”

The company registered on the Isle of Man because the Irish banks weren’t lending so they went there to get credit, he says.

“There has been no clerical error by the Registrar,” says a spokesperson for the companies registry in the Isle of Man.

“As at the time of writing, no application to restore has been made pursuant to Section 187 and the Registrar has not been made aware of any appeal to the Courts being made under Section 184,” says the spokesperson.

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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