Homeowners and residents in one of Co Longford’s busiest towns have given their unanimous backing to proceed with plans to purchase 15 acres of land from State’s assets agency, NAMA.
Over 100 interested observers gave their approval to the scheme during a public meeting at Granard Community Centre last Thursday evening.
The plans, which also involve the proposed purchase of two commercial units, provide for the development of an interpretive centre along with a string of other public amenities and attractions.
Audience members were also told a provisional committee, assembled at an earlier meeting, have submitted an offer of €265,000 for the site, making the group the highest bidders so far.
One of the “seven or eight” individuals behind the project, local man Paul Flood, said it was the group’s belief the bid had been accepted as he took issue with the hard line tactics employed by NAMA officials.
“We have put down a booking deposit,” he said in response to a question from a member of the public. “We got ten interest free loans comprising a total of €10,000. What we requested from NAMA was to let the bidding process go ahead and give us 21 days to consult with the community to see where we could go from here. They wouldn’t do it, they wouldn’t do anything. They are supposed to have a social charter in their constitution but we didn’t see any signs of it. They wouldn’t give us an inch.”
A spokesperson on behalf of NAMA declined to comment in response to those claims when contacted by the Leader this week, instead repeating a previously released statement.
It read: “The agency is required to get the best possible price for the taxpayer from individual sales.”
As locals await news on their bid from agency representatives, Andrew Gettings said talks had already begun involving local authority staff, LCRL figures and members from social investment organisation, Clann Credo in an attempt to raise finance.
“They (Clann Credo) will give you 70 per cent and we have to come up with the other 30 per cent. Obviously the parish in some shape or form are going to have to come up with ways in which to pay for this. I would be very confident that when this goes to the next stage we will be able to make progress as there is lots of grants out there,” he said.
That statement appeared to sit well with many of those watching on from the floor. Parish Priest, Fr Simon Cadam said the venture provided a “wonderful opportunity” to both the town and surrounding areas.
“There have been a number of people looking at the future of our community,” he eloquently put it. “This is all about communities helping themselves and from what I can see, this will be an absolute gem for our community.”
Similarly upbeat appraisals were given by local councillors, PJ Reilly, Tommy Stokes and Fintan Flood. Co Cllr and Chairman of the Midland Regional Authority, Micheal Carrigy said the plan carried with it unlimited tourism potential.
“Coming from Ballinalee, I can see the huge benefits this will have for the whole area. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would just ask people here tonight to grab it both hands,” he said.
A further meeting is expected to be convened tomorrow night (Thursday) where, it is hoped, further discussions will be held and a steering committee formed.