RTE probe man gets building go-ahead
Sunday Business Post
03 April 2005 By Liz Walsh
Dublin City Council has granted permission for a major apartment block at the rear of an illegal hostel that it considers a potential firetrap.
Controversial architect David Grant owns the Celtic Inn at 7-10 Upper Gardiner Street in Dublin. He runs the building as a hostel without permission and without a fire safety certificate.
On March 21, the same day the city council began fire safety proceedings against Grant, it gave him the go ahead for a multi-million euro development at the rear of the building.
Simultaneously, the council is attempting to have Grant jailed for contempt of a High Court order over his illegal gutting of the buildings, which are protected Georgian structures.
The Scotsman was the subject of a recent Prime Time investigation into the architectural services that he offers to the public, mainly through newspaper adverts.
Last Friday, the Irish Independent confirmed that it had â€œpulled'â€˜ his ads in all of its publications. A spokesman said: â€œThe group will no longer accept any ads from Grant or any of his companies.â€
Sources in the council have described the decision to grant permission for the four and five-storey block of 20 apartments with balconies and 15 car spaces as â€œunbelievable'â€˜, given Grant's â€œappalling track record'â€˜ in general building control, planning and fire safety.
Last August, another of Grant's hostels, on Adelaide Road, went on fire and occupants had to jump from the second floor windows. He had no permission to run the hostel and no fire safety certificate.
The council threatened legal proceedings before the fire but did not follow through after Grant promised, in March of last year, to cease using it as a hostel.
There appears to be strong evidence, however, that the building was being used as a hostel when the fire broke out.
The council has also confirmed it is bringing proceedings against Grant for carrying on a business at his Haddington Road address and is seeking the removal of an â€œunauthorised two-storey extension'â€˜ at the rear.
Secret filming during the Prime Time investigation showed the extent of the gutting and fire hazards, including exposed electrical wires hanging from ceilings.
The fire safety notice, issued the day before the programme was broadcast, listed 28 points of concern, including inadequate escape stairways and too many bed spaces.
It also specified that the electrical services within the building must conform to ESB standards. Furthermore, the notice warned Grant not to use the premises as a hotel or guesthouse. The Gardiner Street hostel houses about 300,mostly long-stay residents from eastern Europe.
The city council can apply to court for an order to shut the building down and evacuate the occupants, or if it considers it an immediate danger, it can do so on foot of an inspector's report.
It was open to the council to refuse permission for the new apartments until Grant restored the buildings as ordered by the High Court on January 24 last. Instead, the council merely stipulated that the proposed apartments should not be â€œoccupied'â€˜, allowing Grant to build the apartments and sell the entire property on.
The council said it would not comment on individual applications. Grant's application was registered on February 25 and passed just 24 days later.
Grant has been sued successfully on a number of occasions in relation to his architectural services and more cases are being prepared. The courts have found that he drew up plans in contravention of the Dublin Development Plan and in some cases, actually misrepresented sites, most of which were in side and back gardens.