A trust linked to billionaire Dermot Desmond has secured planning permission to demolish a house on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road, which remains the most expensive residence ever sold in the State at €58 million, and construct a 17,168 sq ft mansion in its place.
Three previous applications to knock down and replace Walford were rejected by planners but Mr Desmond's Celtic Trustees Ltd has been given the green light to do so. The house, located on a on a 1.77 acre site in Ballsbridge, was built in 1902 and has fallen into disrepair in recent times.
The Desmond linked trust paid €14.25 million for Walford in December 2016 and the planning permission granted allows the development of a property almost three times larger than the existing 5,963 sq ft house.
Mr Desmond, the largest shareholder in Celtic football club in Glasgow, has recruited former Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Marcus Barnett to oversee the creation of a private garden. Other features listed in the application include a subterranean swimming pool, a gym, a cellar, a games room and a staff bedroom looking out onto a sunken courtyard.
The planning documents say that “in the interests of transparency, we can confirm that the dwelling is intended for use as the private dwelling of Mr Dermot Desmond”.
The planning application contained a series of internal photos showing the extent to which the house has fallen into disrepair and a Dublin City Council planner who visited the site said the property "does not have significant features which would require its retention".
The planner added: “While the scale of the new property is significantly larger, it is designed so that it is suitable to its setting. The site will be vastly improved with the proposed landscaping scheme and with the re-development of the site.”
She said that “given the proposal for a single property which respects the existing character of the road, the demolition of the current property in this specific instance is considered to be acceptable”.
There was no objections lodged against the plan and the only submission was a letter of support from neighbour, Moya Coulson, wife of financier, Paul Coulson. She said Walford had "remained unoccupied and in a state of near dereliction for almost 15 years presenting a very poor image to the road".
Walford sold for €58 million in July 2005 to a mystery buyer. The identity of the purchaser remained shrouded in secrecy with reports suggesting it was property developer Seán Dunne. It was later claimed by newspaper columnist turned property developer Gayle Killilea, who married Mr Dunne in 2004, that ownership of the house had been transferred to her in 2005.
The property was later transferred to a Cypriot company, Yesreb Holdings, before being sold to the trust in December 2016.