Wednesday 13 December 2017

Landowner helped stop GAA star's €16m property dream

Meath legend Colm O'Rourke
Fellow syndicate member John Farrelly
A school being built on the land they bought

Siobhan Creaton

THE landowner who sold a 70-acre site to the syndicate that included Meath football legend Colm O'Rourke for €16m later objected to plans to develop the land.

Meath County Council had given planning permission for the site -- a decision later overturned by An Bord Pleanala.

Mr O'Rourke is one of a four-man syndicate that borrowed more than €16m for a high-profile development on the outskirts of Navan, Co Meath. The group also includes Meath County Councillor and former Fine Gael TD John Farrelly.

National Irish Bank (NIB) has now gone to the High Court to legally force Mr O'Rourke, Mr Farrelly and two other local businessmen, James O'Reilly and Joseph O'Reilly to pay €853,463. NIB took a judgment for that amount against each of the men after rejecting a repayment offer they had made to the bank. In 2008, the group sold about 10 acres of the site to the local parish for around €330,000, Mr Farrelly said.

A primary school is being built there now, with plans for a secondary school to be developed. Mr Farrelly said the purchase has been a "good deal" for the parish compared to another site it was offered by a developer for €1m around the same time. The rest of the land remains as farmland.

Mr Farrelly pointed out that the four men had paid a further 32pc in capital gains tax, stamp duty and VAT to the Government when they purchased it five years ago. This amounted to around €5m. Mr O'Rourke said they could seek planning permission for it again in the future.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Farrelly, who is an auctioneer as well as a long-serving councillor, said they hoped to bring the matter to a "favourable solution" for all concerned and would continue to work with NIB to clear their debts.

"We have no intention of walking away from our responsibilities," he said.

The four men took out the NIB loan to fund the costs of getting planning permission to build a shopping centre, 375 houses and apartments, a public house, restaurant, nursing home and creche on a 70-acre site on the outskirts of Navan, Co Meath, which they purchased in 2006 for about €16m.

Mr Farrelly said the four men, who have been friends for more than 25 years, saw an opportunity to build a centre with amenities at the edge of the town where many new houses had been built but where facilities were limited.


"We put the deal together in a very positive light. We were very proactive in supporting the community and would be creating jobs," Mr Farrelly said.

The group intended to develop the project themselves once they secured planning permission, he said.

Meath County Council granted them planning permission but this was later overturned following objections -- including one from the landowner who sold them the site.

It said the development would create "serious traffic congestion" on the inner relief road in Navan and also criticised the layout as "unacceptable".

Neither Mr Farrelly nor Mr O'Rourke would comment on how they financed the €16m deal originally. There are also loans from Irish Nationwide attached to this property, which the four men own equally.

Mr O'Rourke said the court judgments had nothing to do with the Irish Nationwide loans that were not subject to any court proceedings.

Irish Independent

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