Mick and Tom Bailey: have their eyes on the Metro North line

'The Lissenhall lands will be developed in tandem with the required infrastructure in order to maximise the development potential of the site… It is proposed that the density of housing will increase closer to the Metro Station with all categories of potential residents catered for and to ensure the viability of Metro North."

If proof were needed of the importance of the proposed Metro North project to brothers Michael and Tom Bailey, then the above quote, taken from their submission on Lissenhall to a Bord Pleanála hearing which opens tomorrow at Croke Park, helps to provide it.

As the Sunday Tribune reveals today, the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) has identified at least a dozen separate plots of land with ties to the Bailey brothers, which may be acquired by it if Metro North goes ahead.

According to a book of reference for a draft railway order compiled by the RPA, these include lands in Lissenhall, which is the location of one of the proposed stops for Metro North.

Similarly, a submission in relation to lands at Lissenhall was made to An Bord Pleanála by ILTP Consulting last October on behalf of Michael and Tom Bailey of Bovale Developments, and Balheary Properties Ltd.

Both companies have registered addresses with a solicitors' firm located at 59 Fitzwilliam square in Dublin.

A search of the land registry reveals that the Bailey brothers, Bovale and Balheary are the owners of several separate plots of land at Lissenhall Little, west Swords.

The dates attached to the lands on the registry range from January 2004 in the case of lands owned by Balheary, to as recently as October 2007, in relation to some two and a half hectares of lands owned by the brothers themselves.

In their submission to the planning board, the prominent Fianna Fáil supporters and well known Flood (later Mahon) tribunal figures, state unequivocally that it is proposed that "the development of these lands would take place in conjunction with the development of the Metro station."

They note that the development of Metro North and the Lissenhall lands has been the subject of meetings involving the RPA, Fingal County Council and the "Lissenhall Team".

"Due to the proposed Metro North alignment running through the Lissenhall lands it would be unsustainable and impractical to continue to use the lands in their current status," the submission continues.

It outlines how the main aim of the development strategy for Lissenhall is the construction of a "varied and comprehensive mix" of residential units, including apartments, semi-detached houses and executive housing.

Elsewhere, the submission notes plans for a neighbourhood centre, a mini business park, cultural and other educational initiatives.

But the Lissenhall lands are not the only part of the Metro North line which the brothers have their eyes on.

In fact, their company Bovale already owns a very significant chunk of land near the Airside retail park in Swords, a site known as Barrysparks, which is also close to the Pavilions Shopping Centre.

The Dublin Transportation Office first outlined plans for a Dublin Metro in its Autumn 2000 document 'Platform for Change', although the idea for a Metro was mooted as far back as 1994.

In January 2002, then minister for public enterprise, Mary O'Rourke TD, announced the start of the procurement process for phase one of the new Metro, which at the time included plans for a link to Swords and Shanganagh near Bray. It remains unclear exactly when Bovale bought the Barrysparks land.

But a search of the registry of deeds at King's Inns reveals that it was granted a mortgage with Bank of Ireland for "lands of Barrysparks". The date of this filing is September 2001 – or shortly before O'Rourke's announcement.

"The client is in ownership of Barrysparks Land along the proposed Metro line, which is strategically located adjacent to the Swords stop," the submission to An Bord Pleanála also states.

In the Barrysparks submission, the Baileys appear in little doubt as to the potential of the site, and even argue that the "relatively low number of passengers that will be carried in the early stages of the operation of the Metro" means there is a need for "substantial development to take place in the environs of the Metro line". This would be to ensure that the Metro maximises "patronage and revenue".

Interestingly, there is little mention of the money such large-scale development could potentially generate, even in the current economic climate, for Bovale.

The submission also repeatedly exhorts the benefits of developing the Barrysparks site "on a parallel timeline with the Metro line".

Again, plans for the lands are nothing if not ambitious, including a major retail development from the Swords Metro stop towards the main square.

Overall, the submission envisages some 730 residential units, a hotel and some 61,000 square metres of retail space.

For its part, the RPA has repeatedly stressed that the final plans for Metro North were the result of extensive public consultation, and will lead to a significant economic boost for the area and the creation of 4,000 jobs during construction alone.

It notes that Fingal County Council plans to develop the Lissenhall area as described in its strategic vision document 'Your Swords'.

A study by Indecon Consultants last year also suggested that the development of a Metro North "Economic Corridor" could create an extra 37,000 jobs over 20 years and fund half the construction and land acquisition costs of the proposed metro in north county Dublin.

Yet the significance of the Bailey brothers ties to the Metro project, for a government which is already facing intense criticism for its links to property developers, appear self evident.

Back in 2002, the Flood tribunal found that Michael Bailey had made a corrupt payment to former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke, and ruled that he and his brother had obstructed and hindered the tribunal's work.

A subsequent tax settlement totalling €22.17m made by the two brothers in 2006 was the largest in the history of the state.

Others have pointed out that Metro North may well be shelved or even abandoned, given the current fiscal problems which the government is experiencing.

Be that as it may, clearly the brothers are well placed to capitalise upon any decision to "green light" Metro North.

Whether we ever establish how they found themselves to be in this position is another matter altogether.