Developers lose dozens of appeals against new tax on vacant housing sites

Cairn, Glenveigh, Castlethorn, Quintain and O’Flynn Group among developers who appealed surcharge for not building homes on sites

Planners have rejected dozens of appeals against a new tax on vacant housing sites, in a blow to landowners seeking exemptions from a Government clampdown against hoarding.

Many of the biggest real estate investors in the State will soon face An Bord Pleanála rulings on hundreds of appeals against the surcharge for not building homes on their sites, a measure designed to boost housing supply.

Such rulings will have implications for developers Cairn, Glenveagh, Castlethorn, Quintain, O’Flynn Group, Hammerson, Hibernia, Kelland, Ardstone, Bovale and many others. All have appeals pending after local councils said idle land in their control should be taxed.

But new data reveals how An Bord Pleanála dismissed the overwhelming majority of appeals already concluded, deeming local authority tax maps robust in such cases.


Among 67 settled cases, the planning appeals body confirmed the local authority determination in 52 cases. Only nine appeals were upheld.

In three cases the determination was partly confirmed and another part set aside – and three residential zoned land tax (RZLT) appeals were withdrawn.

Rulings in another 542 cases fall due within weeks, with An Bord Pleanála saying it “will endeavour to finalise as many” as possible by the September 1st target. The board is the final RZLT decision-maker but landowners can still take a High Court judicial review case against rulings.

“Of the 609 valid appeals 67 have been determined and orders issued, a further 83 have been considered by the board and orders are currently being drafted,” An Bord Pleanála said.

“Inspectors have completed an additional 84 reports and these cases will be considered by the board in the coming weeks. The remaining cases are awaiting inspectors’ reports before they can be considered by the board.”

The annual 3 per cent surcharge on the market value of unused land will be levied next year in a bid to discourage hoarding, the practice of not building on zoned serviced sites in the hope of making more money later.

The aim is to spur owners to activate land that remains idle despite residential zoning and links to utilities such as water.

Landowners with failed RZLT appeals include Castlethorn, led by Joe O’Reilly, and related company Firth. They lost four cases over lands at Clonsilla, Dublin. Castlethorn has separate appeals over sites at Pelletstown, Dublin, and Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.

Rhonellen, led by AJ Noonan, lost an appeal over land at the former Mall shopping centre in Balbriggan, Dublin. Marron Estates lost a case over land at Brackenstown, Swords.

Jacko Investments, owned by the Swords-based Savage family, lost two appeals over lands at the Lord Mayor’s pub in Swords, Dublin. Robert Savage Ltd lost an appeal over land at Watery Lane, Swords.

Bindford, controlled by Sibeal Keily, lost a case over land at the former Cross Guns flour mill at Phibsborough, Dublin.

Rainbowside, whose directors include investor William McGreal, lost an appeal over Blackhorse Inn land at Inchicore, Dublin. UK-based Land Securities lost a case over land at White Heather industrial estate, Dublin 8.

Not all appeals are on An Bord Pleanála’s website. Ten Cairn appeals in counties Dublin, Galway, Wicklow, Kildare and Kilkenny include former RTÉ lands at Montrose.

Glenveagh has two appeals over sites at Donabate, Dublin, and Celbridge, Co Kildare. Quintain appealed over land at Cherrywood, Dublin. O’Flynn Group, controlled by Michael O’Flynn, a member of the Government-appointed Housing Commission, has four RZLT appeals with An Bord Pleanála.

Hammerson appealed over property at Swords Pavillion and O’Connell Street, Dublin. Hibernia appealed over a Clanwilliam Place site in Dublin. Kelland appealed over property at Deansgrange, Dublin. Ardstone has two appeals in Rathfarnham, Dublin, and one in Bishopstown, Cork. Bovale appealed over land at Barrysparks, Swords.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times