On Fairview Strand beside the Ballybough Cemetery sits a pair of two-storey semi-detached Georgian houses – numbers 61 and 63 – with large arched doorways and big chimneys.
One house is red brick and the other has a white pebbledash finish, and a council planner’s report from March 2019 suggests they are among the oldest buildings in Marino and Fairview.
Last month, a local resident noticed that slates had been stripped off the roofs of the buildings. He was worried that the building could quickly decay, he says.
P.J. O’Donnell, a director of Banner A Cuig Ltd, which owns the houses, says the company was advised to remove the slates from the roof as some of them were loose. “They posed a danger to the public.”
They couldn’t secure the slates back onto the roof, he says. “The timbers aren’t in great condition either.”
Independent Councillor Damian O’Farrell says he has asked the council to assess the Georgian houses to see if they should be added to the record of protected structures.
If the houses are not secured soon, wind and rain could cause irreparable damage, he says. “The building must be saved and restored as a condition of any planning application for the rest of the site.”
“It’s an ongoing battle for residents to try and save the historical and architectural heritage of their local communities,” said O’Farrell.
O’Donnell says Banner A Cuig Ltd intends to keep the houses in the new development, subject to planning permission.
The two old Fairview houses have been on the vacant sites register since May 2018.
Banner A Cuig Limited, which owns the site, is in turn owned by the company Pat O’Donnell Enterprises Unlimited. Pat O’Donnell & Co is a well-known machinery supplier that sponsors the Clare GAA team.
In February 2019, Dublin City Councilrefused a planning application to demolish the homes – and build 97 apartments on the wider site – citing, among other factors, the two buildings’ historical significance, although they are not on the record of protected structures.
The Georgian houses on Fairview Strand were on the Ordinance Survey map 1837–42, says a council planner’s report. They would appear to “possess elements and features of interest”, it said.
The city council’s development plan, its vision for how the city should develop, aims to “encourage retention and re-use of older buildings of significance which are not protected”, says the planner’s report.
“The applicant has not made any case for removal of these buildings and at the very least should be requested to survey and detail the historic background to the properties and to justify the demolition of these structures given their age and architectural character,” it says.
It appears that demolition isn’t in the best interests of the area, says the report.
Should They Be Retained?
Fairview resident David Finnigan was among a number of residents who objected to the demolition of the Georgian houses on Fairview Strand when that planning application was filed in December 2018.
In August 2021, he spotted scaffolding up around them. “I thought, great they are going to renovate the houses,” says Finnigan, standing on the pavement in front of the houses on a recent Thursday.
In December, he saw the scaffolding coming down and noticed that all the slates had been removed from the front of the two roofs, he says
Finnigan wants the houses to stay, he says, as part of any new development. “Fairview is a historic area. There are few enough of these buildings around Dublin and there is no need to destroy them.”
O’Farrell, the independent councillor, says that Dublin City Council is assessing the houses to see whether to put them on the record of protected structures.
A protected structure is one that the council considers to be of special interest, perhaps because of its architecture, its story or history. The owner of a protected structure has a legal obligation to make sure it isn’t damaged.
In the meantime, the owners have a responsibility to secure the houses, says O’Farrell. The condition of the buildings is bound to deteriorate fast with the slates gone from the roof, he says.
O’Donnell, the Banner A Cuig Ltd director, says that the houses were already in a very bad state when his company agreed to buy them in 2014. The estate agent described them as being in need of total refurbishment, he says.
“You can only imagine the condition they were in,” says O’Donnell. “There was a tree growing up the middle of one of the houses.”
He has never stood inside them because it’s not safe to do so, he says. The floors are ready to give way, says O’Donnell.
Still, he hopes to retain them. “The current plan is, subject to planning permission, to restore the two houses and to have a greater development in behind the two houses and to develop to the side of them as well,” says O’Donnell.
Somebody reported them to the building enforcement section in Dublin City Council in December, he says.
“Planning enforcement did look into it and confirmed there was no case to be answered,” he says. “The buildings are not protected structures, that is deliberate.”
The current application to An Bord Pleanála mentions “Demolition of existing structures”. O’Donnell said that relates to other structures, not the two houses.
O’Donnell says that many other buildings on that street are on the record of protected structures but that those Georgian houses weren’t considered historically significant. “They were deliberately left out of the record of protected structures.”
Dublin City Council didn’t respond to questions about that in time for publication.
“It is questionable whether the facades should be retained,” says O’Donnell. But, he says, the current plan is to retain them, if possible.
O’Farrell, the councillor, says that in general, the current system for protecting historic buildings in the city is not robust enough. “Buildings of significant importance can be knocked to the ground overnight.”
“There seems to be little or no recourse by planning authorities to the owners of such properties bar a very gentle tap on the wrist,” he says.
[UPDATE: This article was updated at 6.17pm on 26 January to include more information, adding a link to the current planning application and to add PJ O’Donnell’s response to what is included in the current demolition plans.]
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