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Owner of Independent House and nuns fail in appeals against new land hoarding tax

An Bord Pleanála dismisses appeals against residential zoned land tax on former newspaper headquarters and south Dublin monasteries

The owner of Independent House, the former headquarters of Independent Newspapers on Abbey Street in Dublin, has failed in its bid to have the 1920s protected structure excluded from the new land-hoarding tax.

Retailer Primark, which operates the adjoining Penneys store, bought the old newspaper building 10 years ago, and was expected to expand the clothing and homewares shop. However, the building remains vacant, its windows covered by metal panels.

The ornate brick and stone structure was built for the newspaper in 1924 and served as its headquarters and printing works up to 2003 when it was sold to a company headed by property developer Paddy Kelly and businessman Niall McFadden, then a shareholder in Arnotts.

The building was to have been part of the vast “Northern Quarter” retail district planned by Arnotts before the department store was taken over by the banks in 2010 and Independent House sold to Primark in 2013.


In its submission the retailer said it should not have to pay the new residential zoned land tax (RZLT) because the building was not suitable for conversion to residential use.

The site is zoned for a mix of uses including residential, but Primark said the protected status of the building, “contamination on site” and the risk of flooding mitigated against its conversion to apartments.

In its appeal to An Bord Pleanála, Primark said the building was in “poor condition” and there was asbestos “in roofs, walls and floors throughout”. In addition it said areas of the building were “likely to be contaminated on account of daily printing operations and use of chemicals, lubricants and oils in the printing process”.

The board’s inspector determined Primark had not demonstrated these were issues that could not be overcome in the development process and the land should be included on Dublin City Council’s RZLT maps.

The board has to date decided all of the 67 appeals by site owners against their inclusion on the city council’s RZLT map, confirming the council’s decision in relation to 66, with one appeal declared invalid because the site was not actually on the map. The tax, which will be levied from 2025, will be charged at 3 per cent of the market value of the lands.

Separately the board has upheld the decision by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to include two sites owned by the Carmelite order of nuns in south Dublin on the register.

The order had appealed the inclusion of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, Roebuck Road, Clonskeagh, close to UCD, and St Joseph’s Monastery on Kilmacud Road Upper, Blackrock, on the RZLT maps.

The trustees of the monasteries argued the sisters were “carrying out a trade” from both sites “namely the distribution of altar bread sold to churches and communities across the country”. It said inclusion of the lands on the RZLT map “would interfere with the sisters’ way of life”.

To qualify for an exemption the board’s inspector said the nuns’ business would have to “provide services to residents of adjacent residential areas”, and it did not meet this criterion. The other grounds for appeal did not fall within the scope of the legislation, he said.

The nuns had previously secured an exemption from paying the vacant site levy, which the RZLT replaces, following an appeal to the board.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times