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NAMA boss says foreign banks may bulldoze ghost sites

FOREIGN-owned banks -- which are not under the remit of NAMA -- are considering turning ghost housing estates back into greenfield sites, the head of NAMA said yesterday.

Brendan McDonagh said that while his agency was considering turning land purchased for property development back into agricultural land, some foreign banks such as ACC and Ulster Bank were also looking at doing the same.

At a breakfast briefing for chartered accountants in Limerick yesterday, Mr McDonagh said an individual from a foreign bank had instructed his colleagues to turn undeveloped land back into a greenfield area.

"I met somebody this week from a non-NAMA bank who was instructed . . . to look at getting prices from turning some developments -- which might have groundwork or foundations in -- back into green fields," Mr McDonagh said.

"They are suddenly now looking at a situation where it might be more economical for them to take out the foundations and turn it back into a greenfield area."

Mr McDonagh stressed that every estate would have to be judged on its own particular circumstances.

He said there were four different categories of ghost estates. Category four comprises the 230 worst estates, of which NAMA has just 28.

He said the ideal situation would be to get people to live in these so-called ghost estates, but admitted that if an estate was predominantly unoccupied and unfinished then levelling it could be an option.

"Unfortunately, some of these ghost estates are in places they shouldn't have been built in in the first place and demand isn't there," he said.

Mr McDonagh also issued a stark warning to the country's two main banks, saying they would not exist in 10 years unless they started lending again.

"The banks are supposed to lend. You would think that one of the least risky forms of lending is residential mortgages, but they aren't lending.

"Banks which have been around for over 200 years -- they won't be around in 10 if they don't start lending," he said.

Irish Independent