Saturday 18 November 2017

Lowry says he didn't declare 21-acre UK site because it's 'worth nothing'

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry has insisted that a land site he partly owns in England is completely valueless.

He was responding after it emerged he had not included his part-ownership of a 21-acre site in Wigan in the northwest of England in his official Dail declaration. Under Dail rules, TDs are obliged to declare their ownership of any land worth over €13,000.

But Mr Lowry told the Irish Independent that the site, which he purchased back in 2001, was landlocked, overgrown and not zoned for development.

"This land has zero value as it stands at the moment. There's nothing to declare. If that changes, I will declare it," he said.

Mr Lowry refused to say how much of the 21-acre site he owned along with Thurles businessman Liam Carroll. But he dismissed reports that the site was about to be rezoned by Wigan Council to form part of a 30-hectare enterprise park in the town, which is near Manchester.

"The perverse thing about this is that I wish it was right. If it was right, I would have something to look forward to. It's valueless unless it is rezoned," he said.

Wigan Council confirmed that the site owned by Mr Lowry and his business partner was not included in its current proposal for a 30-hectare enterprise park just off the M6 motorway.

Its principal planning officer David Kearsley said the 8.5-hectare site (21 acres) part-owned by Mr Lowry was not adjacent to any road near the junction.

"We're looking at a site of around 30 hectares for employment, which would not stretch to his land," he said.

Interests

Mr Kearsley also said that the greenbelt site was not being considered by the council for developing more housing in the Wigan area. He said it was not possible for him to say if the land at present was worth over €13,000 -- the figure which requires TDs to declare their ownership.

The Dail members' interests committee is responsible for dealing with complaints about the failure of TDs to declare their ownership of land, property or shares worth over €13,000.

Its chairman, Independent TD Thomas Pringle, said it would be helpful if Mr Lowry asked for clarification from the committee about whether the Wigan land should be declared.

The site was bought in 2001 by a company owned by Mr Lowry and Mr Carroll, who used to run a haulage refrigeration business.

The Moriarty Tribunal heard evidence that the firm, Vinacre Limited, paid stg£56,000 to a Northern Irish agent, Kevin Phelan, for his work putting together deals on the site and other properties in the Wigan area.

Vinacre Limited has since been dissolved and the "buy" options it held on other adjoining plots of land have expired. Mr Lowry is now planning to "sit" on the land in the hope that it will be rezoned in the future.

Earlier, he told Tipp FM that there was not even a "beast" on the site due to the lack of road access for farmers.

He said that he had not made a rezoning submission to Wigan Council because it would have been "too expensive and costly" to hire a land agent and architectural team with little prospect of success.

Irish Independent

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