Although Senator Mark Daly’s credibility might have been diminished in some eyes when he refused to provide details last year to substantiate his allegations about NAMA disposing of property below market value to associates of borrowers, that may be set to change with the Senator’s bid to have NAMA publish details of all property for sale and completed sale details on a public website and if the details of a NAMA sale reported in today’s Irish Examiner turn out to be correct.
This transaction really takes the biscuit for lack of transparency – the Irish Examiner today reports that NAMA has sold 125-acres of farmland “off the N25/ Ballincollig Bypass” in county Cork to University College Cork (UCC) and the Munster Agricultural Society. The price has not been disclosed though the Examiner reckons it was €3-4m, or €20-30,000 per acre. So here we have one State agency, NAMA (nominally independent, but who are they kidding) selling property to the State-owned University College Cork and what claims to be a “farmers society”, the Munster Agricultural Society (MAS). And the price is not publicly available. That’s not the real issue though.
The Examiner goes on to say that “the land, while not advertised for sale, was on the market and had appropriate signage on the arterial, western route into the city” So a property supposedly worth €3-4m which might have been expected to garner national and indeed international interest had a few “for sale” signs stuck up on it!
Agricultural land is generally selling for about €7-14,000 in the State so this price goes beyond purely agricultural use. The Examiner says “the land will have amenity and community use. It will address MAS’s need for a new home and will open up space for a Science and Innovation Park for UCC at an adjoining site at Curraheen. This land is zoned for a Science Park and the new lands will allow the university to relocate their facilities westward.”
The Examiner says that the land wasn’t advertised for sale, save it seems, for the signage along the road into Cork city. Elsewhere the report says that the land was previously owned by NAMA developer, John Fleming but that it had been sold by NAMA. John Fleming recently emerged from bankruptcy in the UK and all of his property had been foreclosed, to the best of my knowledge. So the first thing I did when I read the claim that the property was “on the market” was to check NAMA’s latest enforcement list for November 2011. This list is sorted by country, by county and by town/district. So I expected to see something for Ballincollig. Nothing, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t been geographically classified elsewhere. NAMA was then contacted and it said the land was classified as “Curraheen, Bishopstown” and indeed there is an entry on the November foreclosure list for “Development-uncommenced” at that address showing PwC as the receiver and DTZ Sherry FitzGerald as the estate agent. NAMA has not commented on the marketing of the property.
NAMA came in for some criticism in November 2011 in the Dail when deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor said in relation to a property supposedly for sale in Booterstown, Dublin “I understand the sensitivity of sales under NAMA but I am concerned that in giving misleading addresses or limited information on properties for sale NAMA is constraining ordinary people from knowing what is for sale and bidding on these properties”. It seems as if Deputy Mitchell O’Connor’s concerns apply as much to Cork as they do to Dublin.
UPDATE: 17th January, 2012. The property sales material from DTZ Sherry FitzGerald -available here - shows the property address as Curraheen, Bishopstown. This appears to be the location of the property, marked with a red outline below.
UPDATE: 18th January, 2012. Locals confirm the correct address of the land as Curraheen, Bishopstown which is what is shown on the DTZ sales material and the NAMA enforcement list, so in this case, unlike the Mary Mitchell O’Connor case in Booterstown, addressing does not appear to be an issue. The more important issue however is the marketing of the property. DTZ has been asked to comment on the report in the Examiner that its marketing was limited to erecting roadside signage.