ONE of the largest national parks in Europe is to be created on the fringes of Dublin after the State stepped in to buy almost 5,000 acres of mountainous land.
Minister of State Michael Ring confirmed to Independent.ie that the land has been bought from Nama despite a long-running row over a €2.5m valuation.
Minister Ring announced that his department will purchase 4,900 acres (or 1,983 hectares) of the Dublin Uplands, in the area known as the Featherbeds.
He declined to reveal the final price agreed but it is understood that Nama did agree to a lesser amount.
Mr Ring said this is “good news story for the whole country”.
The deal will be closed in the coming days but Mr Ring said he wanted to announce it today in order to reassure locals who have been concerned that the land would be sold to a private party who might want to develop houses or wind turbines.
The land will be added to the Wicklow Mountains National Park, expanding the total size of the National Park to 22,000 hectares.
The move comes after weeks of pressure on the Government to purchase the land bank, valued at €2.5m. The land takes in Kippure down to Glenasmole Valley and Bohernabreena Reservoir, and is among the largest tracts to come on the market in recent years.
But more than 90pc is in a special conservation area, meaning it cannot be used for development. Local were concerned it could be used to erect wind farms, and a number of offers to purchase are understood to have been made.
The State has reservations about the asking price of €2.5m, which is the equivalent of the entire 2016 budget for the National Parks and Wildlife.
Correspondence revealed by the Irish Independent today showed that Nama had no intention of selling the land at a discount - and the agency says the State will have to move "quickly" to prevent it being sold to another party.
In an email to Dublin South West TD John Lahart, Nama said it had indicated to the Department that it is willing to give them first refusal on the land.
The head of public affairs Martin Whelan wrote: "You will note however that Nama cannot gift or sell land or property at less than market value to any entity, public or otherwise.
"There is significant private sector interest in acquiring these lands and the Department has been made aware of this interest and the need to indicate its position quickly lest the administrator will sell to the other party."
Mr Lahart had said it would be "scandalous" if the land was not bought by the State. "It is part of the most picturesque part of Dublin," he said.