Tuesday 16 October 2018

Government sought Nama advice over controversial land agency

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said the State asset agency met officials from the Department of Housing earlier this year.

The agency will focus on managing state land to develop new homes and regenerate under-utilised sites (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The agency will focus on managing state land to develop new homes and regenerate under-utilised sites (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Michelle Devane and Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Irish Government sought the advice of Nama prior to creation of a new Land Development Agency (LDA), it has been confirmed.

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said the State asset agency met officials from the Department of Housing earlier this year while they were “mulling over” the creation of a new agency.

Mr McDonagh warned officials against adopting “a big bang approach” and instead develop “two or three sites” as a concept.

The Government announced last week it will be setting up a new LDA with the aim of building 150,000 new homes in the next couple of decades.

The agency will focus on managing state land to develop new homes and regenerate under-utilised sites.

My own view would be, not to do it in a big bang approach that you would do a proof of concept first. You take two or three sites and sort of say look at what you can do with those Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh

Launching the agency, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the venture was about 50 years overdue.

The agency will focus on buying existing land owned by state departments and selling it to developers to ensure new homes are built quickly.

The body must deliver at least 40% of housing potential on the land, with 10% social and 30% affordable.

Mr McDonagh made the comments at the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday when he was answering questions about Nama’s loan sales and housing delivery.

Mr McDonagh said: “Back in spring of this year two officials from the Department of Housing came into to discuss with me, not the LDA, but a high-level concept, I think it was called the NRDA, the National Regional Development Agency.

“They came in as a courtesy visit, saying they were mulling around the concept of the NRDA. They came in and outlined it in high-level terms and that was the extent of the discussion.

“I had no involvement or discussion with department officials after that point.

“My advice to them was that you need to set out clearly what the responsibility the Department of Housing is, set out clearly what the responsibility of the local authorities is and that (of) the NRDA.

“If it was going to do the job of looking at it from a national perspective, that I’m in favour of a centre of expertise that all the state bodies could join on if they have used state land.

“My final bit of advice to them is that if they were going to do this you need very clear legislation (that) sets out clearly what it is going to do.

“My own view would be, not to do it in a big bang approach that you would do a proof of concept first. You take two or three sites and sort of say look at what you can do with those.”

He said he had no more discussions or no more involvement after that. Mr McDonagh said he believed the meeting took place in late March or early April this year.

Following last week’s launch, critics hit out at the Government, saying it had “badly executed” what could have been a good idea.

Sinn Fein housing spokesman Eoin O Broin described the details of the proposed agency as “worrying”.

Press Association

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