Friday 18 January 2019

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Cork Independent


Calls for debt forgiveness on public land

Wednesday, 10th January, 2018 5:10pm

Calls have been made for the government to write off a €30.4 million debt belonging to Cork City Council.

The debt was racked up after the council purchased a massive landbank just before the economic crash. The land on Old Whitechurch Road was bought for more than €25 million nearly a decade ago, and as of 31 December 2017, the 22-acre site had an outstanding debt of €30.4 million. The largest parcel of these lands known as the O’Mullane lands cost the city council just shy of €19 million at the time.

This emerged at a Cork City Council on Monday night after Fianna Fáil Cllr Sean Martin asked for an update on the site, the debt the council owes on it and how much funding is required to bring it to development standard.

A senior official with the council said that undergrounding of the national grid will cost an estimated €4.8 million and that this cost, together with other infrastructure cost for works such as approach entrances, spine access route and provision of trunk drainage/utility services, is included in a recently approved €9.89 million national government fund for the council.

This fund would bring it up to a development standard and it’s expected that these enabling infrastructure work would be completed by April 2019, subject to the relevant planning approvals being in place.

Cllr Martin asked: “What density (of housing) are we going to have to put in that (site) to make the money back for us? Are they going to be affordable or are they going for homeless people? “I think it’s imperative that we call on the Minister write off the Whitechurch Road debt as he has done with other local authorities,” he said. Head of housing with Cork City Council, Valerie O’Sullivan said that the density will be in the region of 600 units.

Ms O'Sullivan added: “The kind of housing will be largely private, for sale at an affordable price to people. That’s the plan and it remains the plan!”

She said she didn’t think full debt forgiveness on the site was a viable route to take. Instead she outlined to councillors that the council would test the market with 200 units, which she said would be done "shortly".

She added: “We won’t add on the price of the land to the house. At the end of that process there will be a balance due on that land and that is debt that I’m going to look for forgiveness for.”

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