HRI and council in row over levy on €79m land at Leopardstown

Racing body says it plans to develop land, and is appealing its entry into vacant sites register

State agency Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is weighing plans for housing, a hotel and a school on land it owns at Leopardstown in Dublin that a local council has classed as a vacant site.

The two plots are valued at €79 million, according to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which maintains a list of vacant sites in its jurisdiction along with valuations.

HRI owns Leopardstown Racecourse in Foxrock on the capital's southside. The property includes two parcels of land totalling about 57 acres at Ballyogan and Carrickmines, at the track's southern end, that are now used for car parking.

John Osborne, head of HRI's racecourse division, said on Monday that the State body was considering plans to build housing and possibly a hotel on part of the land.


At the same time it is in talks with the Department of Education, which is seeking to build a new school in that area of south Dublin.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has included the land on its vacant sites register, which means that it could begin charging the State body 3 per cent of its value each year if it is not developed. This would equate to a charge of almost €2.4 million a year for HRI.

Master plan

Mr Osborne confirmed that HRI is appealing this to An Bord Pleanála on the basis that the State agency intends to develop the plots.

“We are working on a master plan for the two parcels of land at the moment,” he said. “We are going through a process with the council.”

A spokeswoman for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council confirmed that the local authority regarded both sites as vacant under the terms of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, 2015.

She added that the council was not in a position to comment any further as the owner had appealed their entry to the vacant sites register.

Mr Osborne said that HRI would seek permission to build on the land at some point and pointed out the master plan would determine what the development would contain.

He added that the horse racing body wanted to unlock the potential of both sites. "The two parcels of land have always formed part of our desire to ensure that Leopardstown remains one of the best racecourses in Europe, " he said.

Both plots are zoned for residential use in an area where demand for homes is high.

Several developers, including US group Hines, are already working on plans to build houses, offices and shops in Carrickmines.

Sprint track

As part of its plan, HRI is considering reinstating the straight 1.2km sprint track, which it lost when the M50 motorway opened in 2002.

The track, used specifically for flat races run over five and six eighths of a mile, crossed an area through which the road now runs.

Mr Osborne noted that Leopardstown was unusual among European racecourses in not having a sprint track.

Leopardstown hosts top-level – group one and grade one – races in both flat and national hunt racing.

Its premier flat contest, the Irish Champion Stakes, run every September, is regularly rated among the top races in Europe. It is Dublin's last remaining racecourse.

The Oireachtas passed the vacant sites law in 2015 in a bid to stop property owners "hoarding" land suitable for development in the hope that its value would increase.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas