Bank takes over Bray development firm
Bank of Scotland has taken control of the Ballymore Properties subsidiary behind a proposed €100 million town centre development for Bray, Co Wicklow, that was the subject of a number of planning battles.
The bank has appointed Paul McCann and Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton to two connected subsidiaries of the Sean Mulryan-controlled Ballymore group, Florentine Properties and Montes Ltd.
Florentine Properties Ltd is the Ballymore company that was proposing a mixed shopping mall, office and apartment complex for a site on Bray’s main street.
The company got planning permission for the €100 million development, called the Florentine Centre, in April 2007 after seeing off a number of appeals from local opponents who claimed it would threaten their businesses.
It also saw off a rival plan for another Bray site backed by subsequently bankrupted property player, Paddy Kelly, which was shot down just a week before Florentine got its permission.
Once An Bord Pleanála gave it the go-ahead, the Ballymore group pledged to begin building immediately, and said that construction would take up to two years to complete.
However, work never went ahead and it was forced to mothball the entire project the following year as the financial crisis reached its peak and it became clear that banks could not provide funding for such developments.
Part of the site was returned to its original use as a car park. Florentine was relying on this and some rental income for its turnover, which was just over €1 million in its last financial year, which ended on March 31st last.
Subsequent accounts for both Florentine and Montes showed that they were depending on their parent group and lenders to continue as a going concern.
Florentine’s bank debts topped €23 million by the end of March last year, while it owed over €14 million to other Ballymore group companies. Its total liabilities came to €38 million.
It was forced to write off over €30 million of the Bray site. Its last balance sheet shows that the company was valued at €1.5 million. Florentine’s 2012 accounts state that the Ballymore group was no longer in a position to continue supporting the company.
Montes’s debt fell just short of €7 million, all of it due to other group operations.
When it was given permission in 2007, Ballymore said it was in talks with a number of blue-chip potential tenants. The group predicted that its development would rejuvenate Bray’s town centre.
The local chamber of commerce said the granting of permission for the Florentine Centre “represents the single most important landmark planning decision to be made by An Bord Pleanála in Bray.”