Ben Dunne sells Glasthule site to local authority at €3.5m loss

Sports field to be used for recreation instead of private gym


Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has bought a sports field for €1.6 million from businessman Ben Dunne, five years after he paid more than €5 million for the land.

The former supermarket owner said he “took a haircut” on the deal, which represents a loss of some €3.5 million, but the proceeds would be used to finance the 10th branch of his expanding gym empire.

The land in question is a 4.5 acre sports field in Glasthule that had been used by the local presentation college until 2007, when it closed.

Mr Dunne bought the property for just over €5 million in 2008 but his failed bid to turn it into a gym – he withdrew the planning application following local objections – led him to sell it to the council for €1.625 million. This was higher than an official evaluation, understood to be about €1.25 million.

“I bought it for a fitness centre. There were many objections. I took a big haircut and the money I am using to open a gym in Bridge Street in Manchester,” Mr Dunne said.

“The last thing I wanted in this world was hassle. The residents just didn’t want it and I didn’t want to waste time with planning boards and all that. I just got on with it.

“I was trying to sell it and they [Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council] wanted to buy it. I did a bad deal on day one and they did a great deal on day two. I am the loser in this one but I have been winning often enough.”

Amenities for area
In a statement, the council said it planned to turn the vacant site into playing fields and recreational amenities in an area where such facilities are “in relatively short supply”.

The site had been the subject of a 2008 High Court ruling after the council attempted to enforce its use as a recreational sports field by attaching a “specific local objective” in its development plan. While the attempt ultimately proved unsuccessful, its securing of the land has been broadly welcomed.

It is zoned “F”, to provide for open space with “ancillary, active, recreational amenities”.

“All things considered, we are going a little over the odds but otherwise it’s just going to lie there,” said Fine Gael Councillor Patricia Stewart.

While also acknowledging the substantial cost, Fianna Fáil councillor Cormac Devlin said the area “doesn’t have any real open space and it has been bereft of a public amenity”.