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Plans for sale of State land to provide schools and childcare


Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, released records to the Irish Independent

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, released records to the Irish Independent

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, released records to the Irish Independent

A LIST is being compiled of State-owned land and buildings which could be sold or developed in partnership with the private sector to provide housing, schools and childcare facilities.

The Government plans to draw on a massive landbank held by local authorities, the Office of Public Works and other State agencies to provide key services needed for proper development of villages, towns and cities.

Local authorities control hundreds of hectares of land across the State, much of which was bought for housing over the past decade but is currently lying idle.

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City and county councils are believed to have bought at least 259 sites, covering 775 hectares, although some have since been transferred to the Department of the Environment.

In addition, a large bank of buildings are also controlled by State agencies, and the Government wants these assets to be used where possible to provide essential services.

"Discussions are ongoing around measures to ensure State lands are disposed of in a way that their long-term value is taken into account," one source said.

"We want State agencies talking to each other. Before they start buying something, they should check with their neighbours.

"It could be for anything. We would hope that the local authority would be front and centre for that and the Department of Education does currently ring the local authority to look for school sites."

The move could also involve neighbouring land banks held by different agencies being merged before being sold or developed.

All Government departments and public bodies must now inform the Department of the Environment if they plan to sell sites, to ensure that strategic lands are not sold on a piecemeal basis. "In most agencies, the sale and disposal of land is a matter for the OPW. We can't have land being sold which may be key to developing an area," the source added.

Among the options could include development by the agency, or with a joint venture partner. The land could also be sold, or transferred to another agency requiring a site, such as the Department of Education for a new school.

The local authorities are considered to be at the centre of the new arrangements, as they would hold information on projected population growth and future needs of areas. A register of lands and buildings is currently being developed by the Office of Public Works.

Meanwhile, UK investors are lining up to pump money into Irish social housing projects, according to the director of the State's public procurement agency. National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) boss Brian Murphy said there is "enormous interest" in Ireland from international investment firms.

"I've had, in the last six months in particular, a lot of interest from market participants in the UK about the possibility of doing something with social housing here in Ireland," Mr Murphy said.

In the 2015 Budget, the Government announced it would invest €300m in Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to develop social housing projects.

Mr Murphy said his agency is perfectly placed to take on the task of procuring companies to begin these developments.

"I understand site identification is happening at the moment and if the Department of the Environment designate us as the procuring authority, we would be delighted to work with that," he said.

"We have delivered a lot of PPPs already particularly in the education area and we are working on others at the moment, such as the primary care centres."

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The Residential Land Availability Survey map was created by drawing together zoning maps held by each local authority in the State.

Developed by the Department of the Environment, it sets out individual plots of land in towns, villages, cities and rural areas, and indicates the number of homes permitted on each site.

It took almost two years to develop, and provides planners and developers with an overview of the available land for housing.

It does not include land zoned for mixed-use development, which would generally include some housing provision. Nor does it include derelict sites.

The data is based on the situation as of March 31 last. Stage 1 land is considered not viable for development in the short-term because necessary services such as water are not in place. Stage 2 land has no major constraints. Not all the land has planning permission.


Irish Independent