Confusion this week surrounds the protracted purchase of up to 15 acres of land a north Longford community group are hoping to acquire from the State’s assets agency, NAMA.
Committee members linked to a consortium based in Granard said talks with officials from the country’s largest property portfolio had broken down over plans to secure the site just outside the historic market town.
The group, headed by its interim chairman Fr Simon Cadam, had been hoping to secure the site along with two empty commercial units as part of plans to create an interpretative centre and in the process create up to ten jobs.
In an interview with the Leader on Friday, Fr Simon Cadam said talks had hit a stumbling block over plans to put the site up for public auction.
“We put forward this request but they (NAMA) have it handed over for public auction. We feel this is a tremendous opening and is a huge opportunity for the county,” he said earlier this week.
However, a statement from NAMA officials on Tuesday morning appeared to dispute any assertions negotiations had taken place over any proposed sale.
“The Agency is required to get the best possible price for the taxpayer from individual sales. Section 10 of the NAMA Act requires the Agency to get the best achievable financial return for the State, having regard to the cost of acquiring and dealing with loans and any other costs incurred in preserving or enhancing the value of property (or) securing them,” it read.
Whatever about its obligations to achieve the maximum return for the taxpayer from its wide-ranging property portfolio, the agency said it was conscious of its social and community obligations.
Citing the handing over of around 2,000 residential properties to county councils for social housing needs, the agency referred to a comment made by its chief executive at an Oireactas meeting last month.
“Within the context of its commercial remit, NAMA is at all times open to proposals, and actively contributes to public policy processes, aimed at supporting the achievement of wider social and economic objectives,” said Mr McDonagh.
Nonetheless, data released over the weekend by property advisors CBRE showed that Ireland has fallen well behind the likes of Sweden, Germany and the UK when selling State owned properties to clear debts.
Sales domestically have come in for renewed criticism from industry experts because of NAMA’s reluctance to accept so-called “low-ball” offers for assets.
It is precisely this assessment which Fr Cadam hopes will eventually convince agency officials to do business.
“The message is simply this: the community want to acquire the land and the two buildings that are on it in that it represents a unique opportunity for the town and its surrounding areas.”
Located on the Edgeworthstown road outside of Longford town, ‘The Motte Field’ as it is known locally runs adjacent to the town’s impressive Norman Motte which dates back to 1199.
It had been hoped walkways alongside a string of other tourism orientated facilities would provide the main focus of the planned initiative.
The Leader has also learned talks between committee members and senior Longford County Council figures ended favaourably, with local authority chiefs giving their backing to the scheme.
Much of those proposals were set out at a recent public meeting held in Granard, but with tomorrow (Thursday) understood to be the deadline for submission of offers, the group’s best laid intentions now hang in the balance.
“We just hope that NAMA will look favourably on this project as it represents a unique opportunity and one which the whole community is very much supportive of,” said Fr Cadam.