Some of the biggest developers in the State seek to escape taxes due on vacant sites

Housebuilders Cairn, Glenveagh, Park Developments and Gannon Homes among developers denying liability

Big property developers and business owners who control highly valuable tracts of Dublin land are seeking to delist property from a new tax on vacant lands that is supposed to spur housebuilding.

In a cascade of legal submissions to Dublin local authorities that cast new light on extensive property holdings around the capital city, hundreds of owners have argued that lands earmarked for the vacancy tax should be excluded from the charge because they don’t meet the legal criteria.

They include stock market-listed housebuilders Cairn and Glenveagh, private groups such as Park Developments and Gannon Homes, a company in the Dunnes Stores supermarket empire and Bovale, the developer caught up in the planning tribunal many years ago.

Others making submissions include builders Johnny Ronan and Bartra Property, controlled by Ronan’s former Treasury Holdings colleague Richard Barrett. Submissions were also made by groups such as Quintain, Hines, Dwyer Nolan, Kelland Homes and Hammerson, the UK business that owns the Dundum Town Centre shopping complex in the south suburbs of the city.


All have objected to the inclusion of certain properties they own in draft maps designating sites on which the Residential Zoned Land Tax may be imposed from 2024.

More than a decade after the economic crash brought many developers and their banks to ruin, the submissions provide insight into assets held by the survivors and newer market entrants. They also show that the four local authorities in Dublin are coming under heavy pressure to revise tax draft maps published in November.

Amid the turmoil in An Bord Pleanála and a year-long backlog of cases before the appeal body, the tax submissions also reflect long delays in the planning process that have delayed delivery of thousands of new homes.

Public files seeking to delist properties from the vacant land tax net show that submissions were also made by the owners of the Goat pub in Goatstown and Scruffy Murphy’s pub in the city centre.

Charjon Investments, the vehicle of Goat owner Charlie Chawke, sought to exclude the Goat Pet Farm land near the Lower Kilmacud Road pub because of waste management and disposal infrastructure on the site and recreational amenities.

The basis for objections made by the owners of Scuffy Murphy’s at Power’s Court was that planning “currently under consideration” was undecided.

Bovale, a substantial land owner in north Co Dublin, sent a submission to Fingal council in relation to plots at Barrysparks, Swords. “It appears that the mapping of Barrysparks Lands has included the entire site as residential/mixed use, where in reality, only a small portion of the site will be considered residential once a development has been realised,” wrote Bovale director Yvonne Bailey.

The new tax, part of the Government’s Housing for All masterplan, aims to increase housing supply by encouraging the activation of unused land that remains idle despite being zoned for housing and supplied with utilities such as water.

The annual tax will be levied at 3 per cent of the market value of the land. In an era of multimillion-euro property valuations, such a charge has clear potential to impose high costs on owners if valuable land is vacant and therefore produces no revenue.

The Government’s objective is to discourage land-hoarding, the practice in the rising market of holding on to zoned serviced land in the hope of making more money later.

But numerous submissions from developers argue their properties are not eligible, most of them citing planning or infrastructure reasons or because site works and construction were under way.

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Cairn, established in 2015 and led by chief executive Michael Stanley, has made nine separate submissions on the vacant land tax to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council. The company sought the exclusion of lands at: Ashbrook Farm, Carrickmines; Chesterfield, Blackrock; two Carrickmines sites; the former Blakes and Esmonde motors sites, Stillorgan; four plots at Brennanstown Road between Cabinteely and Foxrock; and another at Shanganagh Road, Shankill.

Submissions from Cairn also included one to South Dublin council in relation to a strategic housing development under way in Newcastle in the west of the county.

The submissions from Glenveagh, which listed on the stock market in 2017 and is led by chief executive Stephen Garvey, include three to Fingal council in relation to lands at: Corballis East, Donabate; Hollywoodrath and Cruiserath, Dublin 15; and another Dublin 15 site at Kilmartin. Glenveagh also sent a submission to South Dublin council in relation to lands at Brownsbarn, Citywest.

Park Developments, chaired by Michael Cotter, made seven submissions to the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown authority in respect of lands at: Brennanstown Wood, Carrickmines; Church Road, Killiney; Murphystown Way, Dublin 18; Foster’s Avenue, Mount Merrion; and Clay Farm and Mount Wood at Ballyogan Road.

An agent for developer Gerry Gannon of Gannon Homes made four submissions to Fingal council in north Dublin. The lands included property at the historic Belcamp Hall at Malahide Road and three Swords plots: the Celestica/Motorola site and lands north and south of Rathbeale Road.

Ronan Group, controlled by Johnny Ronan, made a submission to the city council seeking to exclude a prominent Dublin 6 site it owns at the junction of Upper Leeson Street and Appian Way because the site “cannot connect” to necessary infrastructure due to a pending planning permission.

Richard Barrett’s Bartra made a submission to Fingal council saying two plots at Old Ballymun Road in the north city because they were subject to “both a permanent and a temporary lands take” by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, a State body, for the Metro North project.

A Quintain submission to South Dublin council centred on its lands at Airlie House off Tandy’s Lane, Finnstown. Quintain made a separate submission to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown that the lands in a 12-plot “strategic landholding” in the Cherrywood strategic development zone “do not meet the qualifying criteria” for the tax.

Hines Cherrywood Development Fund also sent a submission in relation to its lands at Cherrywood.

Dwyer Nolan Developments made a submission to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council about lands at Glenamuck Road South, Kilternan.

Kelland Homes made a submission to the same council about a site including a single-storey cottage between Clonkeen Road and Stillorgan Road, saying the property should be exempt from the tax.

Better Value Unlimited Company, an entity of the Dunnes Stores group, made three Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown submissions

Hammerson’s company Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership made a submission to the council in relation to several properties in Dundrum, some of which are on the site of a proposed 880-apartment scheme. “The inclusion of our clients’ properties … will not expedite or incentivise their development as they are already on a path to redevelopment. Instead, the effect will be to burden the overall Dundrum … site with additional costs that will ultimately pass to homeowners.”

Better Value Unlimited Company, an entity of the Dunnes Stores group, made three Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown submissions in relation to Blackrock properties at Monkstown Crescent a supermarket car park at Newtownpark Avenue and land at Woodfield House on Gort na Móna Drive, Dublin 18.

Borg Developments Unlimited Company, whose directors are Michael Cosgrave and William Cosgrave, made one submission in relation to 11 properties at Old Connaught, Bray, and another in relation to land at Old Connaught Avenue and Dublin Road, Bray.