Johnny Ronan firm must sell freehold on city centre site

Chambury ordered to make €60,000 interest in Lime Street site available to Balark

Johnny Ronan: Judge Patrick Quinn has ordered his firm, Chambury, to sell the freehold on a site at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and Lime Street  to Balark for €60,000. He indicated Mr Ronan’s company would also have to pay legal costs.   Photograph: Collins

Johnny Ronan: Judge Patrick Quinn has ordered his firm, Chambury, to sell the freehold on a site at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and Lime Street to Balark for €60,000. He indicated Mr Ronan’s company would also have to pay legal costs. Photograph: Collins

 

A company controlled by developer Johnny Ronan has been ordered to sell its interest in a high-profile site to Marlet Property Group following a protracted legal battle.

Balark Investments, a subsidiary of the Pat Crean-led building group, Marlet, has been in dispute over a site on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and Lime Street in Dublin with Mr Ronan’s Chambury Investment Company, which owns the fee simple – the freehold – in the property.

Circuit Court judge Patrick Quinn has ordered Chambury to sell the freehold to Balark for a total of €60,000 and indicated that Mr Ronan’s company will also have to pay legal costs.

The ruling means that Marlet can go ahead with plans to spend €100 million building offices and apartments on the site. Dublin City Council has already given planning permission to the company for this.

Building is due to begin in coming months. Marlet recently started working on a similar project on nearby Cardiff Lane. The Sir John Rogerson Quay-Lime Street development will be the second phase of this.

Judge Quinn noted there was “a lot at stake” in the case for both parties. His ruling this week marked the end of the latest round of litigation over the site.

Balark bought two 250-year leases over the property dating back to 1838 and 1857 in December 2015 from a company called Trio Investments.

Some time before that, Mr Ronan bought the fee simple to the site from its previous owner, a man called Jimmy Carroll, on Chambury’s behalf. This gave his company the right to collect ground rent on the property.

Lease owners

Irish law allows owners of leases of more than 50 years to buy out this right. Balark applied last year to the county registrar to be allowed purchase the fee simple for a total of €40,000.

Chambury challenged this. Judge Quinn’s ruling notes that, shortly before Balark took over the leases, Mr Ronan’s company served a forfeiture notice on Trio Investments alleging various breaches of the leases’ terms.

This would have allowed the company to end Balark’s tenancy, but Chambury failed to get it enforced in either the Commercial Court or the Court of Appeal.

In the Circuit Court, Chambury argued that a warehouse and other buildings on part of the site breached the lease’s terms. If that were the case, it would have allowed the judge to rule against Balark’s bid to buy out the fee simple.

Chambury also maintained that the law allowing Balark the right to buy the freehold, the Ground Rent Acts, did not apply to another part of the site, as it contained no permanent buildings, which the legislation requires.

However, Judge Quinn ruled against Chambury on both counts. He pointed out that neither lease barred tenants from building on the property. The judge argued that it was not reasonable to conclude that the original landlord and tenants intended that the site would remain unchanged for 250 years.

He also agreed with evidence that the vacant part of the site was ancillary to the buildings. On that basis, the judge ruled that it was covered by the ground rents legislation.

Judge Quinn said that he did not intend to go into a claim by Mr Ronan that Mr Crean had misled him over Balark’s interest in the site. Mr Crean maintained this was not the case and argued that Mr Ronan had no basis for this grievance.