Not so gorgeous living as Belmayne inspected for defects

Residents concerned over balcony flaws and fire safety at north Dublin development

Workers repair a damaged roof on apartments at Churchwell Crescent in Belmayne, Dublin in September 2018. Photograph: Donall Farmer

Workers repair a damaged roof on apartments at Churchwell Crescent in Belmayne, Dublin in September 2018. Photograph: Donall Farmer

 

New fire safety and balcony defect inspections have been ordered at Belmayne, a major housing development in north Dublin which has been beset by construction issues in recent years.

The owner’s management company wrote to residents in the wake of unpublished reports on “fundamental” balcony design flaws revealed by The Irish Times in February.

According to the letter, the company’s board of directors have given instructions to “proceed with an immediate fire safety inspection”. The letter also states that balcony repair issues had been “interrupted due to legal matters last year”.

A survey of balconies is now being initiated “to identify what further repair work is required and to continue with the work during 2019”.

However, residents at the development told The Irish Times that they had not had questions answered about when the works would be undertaken, and that they still feared they would be left facing sizeable repair bills beyond their capacity to pay, as has happened in other apartment developments faced with defects.

“I don’t think the problem is any closer to being addressed. I feel it isn’t closer to being resolved, and eventually when something does come out or when reports do come out, I feel residents may end up bearing the cost,” one resident said.

‘Ongoing review’

The management company which sent the letter, O’Connor Property Management, did not respond to a series of questions put to it by The Irish Times, including on the issue of costs. The managing agent said that “the nature of our work in Belmayne requires ongoing review and repairs of all areas including fire safety and balconies”.

Belmayne was launched in 2006 promising “gorgeous living”. Its glitzy launch party was attended by celebrity couple Jamie and Louise Redknapp, but it has encountered a range of fire safety and building standard issues since then. Some residents from the nearby Priory Hall, which was beset with its own flaws and safety issues, were moved into Belmayne in 2012. But shortly afterwards fire safety problems were found during repair works to a burst water main. An inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade found issues with fire-stopping features, designed to stop the spread of fire between units.

The original developer, Kitara Limited, funded repairs to 225 of the 232 homes where issues were identified. But a report carried out in 2017 found a series of defects which it concluded were “down to poor design, construction and workmanship”. That report also flagged issues with balconies, which were also noted in the separate report which was published by The Irish Times last month. That report on a sample of balconies found they were “sub-standard throughout, in particular at flashings, timberwork and rainwater outlets”. It said inspections “suggest a fundamental flaw with the design and construction of the balcony”.

Repairs to 16 balconies were completed on foot of the report by a company which owns properties at the development. However, residents have expressed fears about balconies at units which are not owned by that company.

A fire safety report from 2017 found that flammable material was being used next to seemingly inadequate fire-stopping work. The original developer, Kitara, counts among its directors Michael and Kevin Stanley, who were involved in their family business, Shannon Homes, during the boom. The brothers went on to be part of the team which established Cairn Homes, one of the largest housebuilders in the country today. The contractor who built the project is in receivership.

Kitara is understood to be in mediation talks with several property owners at Belmayne. The company has told Dublin City Council that it will be “proactive” in dealing with individual owners who bring fire safety defects to its attention.

Belmayne has also been the subject of correspondence between cabinet ministers. According to records seen by The Irish Times, Richard Bruton, who is TD for Dublin Bay North where Belmayne is situated, wrote to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy following coverage of the development last month.

However, while Mr Murphy acknowledged the “distress and stressful circumstances” faced by the owners, he said that “neither I as Minister, nor this department, have any role in relation to enforcement matters. Where homeowners are concerned that due to defects in their home there may be a risk to health and safety, advice should be sought from a competent professional.”