A GROUP of Ballybunion business people are calling on NAMA to sell the town's landmark Castle Hotel site to the local community for significantly less than the highest bid they believe the agency has received.
Local marketing group Destination Ballybunion say the site - the subject of a long-running development saga - should be sold to the community and that they can afford to pay up to €200,000 for it over the next 15 years. They believe Nama has already received an offer in the region of €235,000 for the site of the former Castle Hotel, but insist local ownership of the site would make it of much greater benefit to the community.
The site comes with planning permission for a five-star, 70bed hotel as well as an apartment complex. It was bought by developer Bernard McNamara in 2006, but NAMA took control of the site as part of its acquisition of the Clare developer's massive debt.
Local hotelier Mícheál Carr believes the agency should now sell the site to the community. "Destination Ballybunion are interested in buying it for the good of the town as it would be perfect for a focal area of our summer season, as a car-park for coaches and cars and as an amenity with picnic benches and much more," he said.
The site had been in use as a carpark in recent years but was closed by owners in July. The lack of car-parking spaces led to congestion in the aftermath of its closure.
Mr Carr said Destination Ballybunion has already received pledges for €32,000 from all over the globe to help fund the purchase of the site. The group has offered to pay NAMA €50,000 up front and €10,000 a year over the next 15 years - generated in the main through car-parking charges. NAMA, however, has rejected the offer, he claimed.
Mr Carr said Destination Ballybunion is not in the least interested in the planning permission which comes with the site. "It is of no interest to us. The development of a five-star hotel is not going to happen in Ballybunion in our time, we are only looking for this as a vital amenity for the community," he said.
New Destination Ballybunion chairman David Walsh said the site is also of major heritage value. "It's a hugely important site and with the 'Wild Atlantic Way' [west coast tourist route] coming it will be of greater value than ever as we will need spaces for coaches right in the centre of the town. It is a fantastic site, with access to the beaches and would be an ideal area for a wide range of touristrelated pursuits."