Talks aimed at bringing an historic County Longford motte site into public ownership have broken down after council officials decided to withdraw from the bidding process.
County Manager Jack Kilgallon said local authority chiefs had decided to pull back from the negotiations because of interest from an unidentified third party.
Mr Kilgallon revealed more than one bid had been submitted by the council, but that this was still some way short of the highest bid for the property.
“We (council) got it valued and got what we thought was a generous valuation. On the basis of that, we bid slightly under the valuation and we bid well beyond the valuation. By the time we stopped bidding, we were told there was a 20 per cent higher bid (on the table),” he said.
The Town Manager, who also acts as Director of Services for Longford County Council, said in the present economic climate, a local authority could not justify paying the sort of sums presently being quoted for the site.
Instead, the council were now “exploring other avenues” in a bid to continue their interest in the facility.
“Why would anyone be interested in it? What are they going to do with it? It’s of no value to anybody except for a bit of sheep farming. We (council) just couldn’t see any justification for paying that sort of monies for a site that simply cannot be developed,” he said, pausing also to reveal the council were presently seeking legal advice over the issue.
The announcement was one which left many elected representatives visibly stunned. Cllr Sean Howard said there was little the council could do but to take a step back from the bidding process.
“Why would anyone pay anything for this, if they can’t develop it?” asked a disgruntled looking Cllr Howard. “I think it’s right that the council doesn’t get involved in a bidding war. We are talking about austerity here and you can’t be seen to be getting into that sort of blackmail.”
Cllr Tonmy Stokes labelled the scenario facing the council as little more than a “bidding war,” before detailing his own disappointment.
“You can only go so far,” he said, regarding the market valuation of the motte site. “But I would love to see it under control of Granard Town Council and the local community. I would love to know the figure they (sellers) are going to take for it.”
One of those who has been leading the charge for the motte’s acquisition over the past 18 months, Cllr PJ Reilly warned against council chiefs potentially “taking their eyes off the ball” when considering their next move.
“It is very important for this town for now and for future generations. What we don’t want to see is it going back into private hands again,” he said.