Price of stadium site for school may be twice its value

The €23m the Department of Education plans to pay for the Harold’s Cross greyhound stadium in Dublin could be well over twice its market value, a TD and auctioneer claims.

As reported by the Irish Examiner yesterday, the sale of the six-acre Dublin 6 site by the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) hinges on the department’s ability to secure a change in zoning to allow it build schools there.

But Fianna Fáil TD, Marc MacSharry, offered his professional assessment that even if the zoning change is secured from Dublin City Council, it would not be worth any more than €9m. With its current zoning for amenity use, he said it is probably just half of that, around €750,000 an acre.

“With the appropriate zoning to allow for institutional use, the market value is probably €1.5m an acre, which is all very very substantially less than €23m,” he said.

He was addressing his concerns to IGB staff and board members at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee. He also said the department recently paid a multiple of the appropriate value for a site elsewhere in south Dublin, and said there is a major value for money issue.

“And... there’s the coincidence of your entire debt happening to broadly match the profile of the proposed purchase price,” he said.

The board has debts of more than €20m but is losing €30,000 a week from the lack of racing at Shelbourne Park in Dublin, because of a dispute with breeders, owners and trainers over the decision to close Harold’s Cross.

IGB board member, Pat Creed, said a successful sale would solve a legacy problem that has crippled the industry for years: “It puts the board in a position that it can have a sustainable future going forward and it can significantly increase prize money in the foreseeable future, provided we get Shelbourne Park back opening”.

“Because without Shelbourne Park opening, we’re haemorrhaging on a daily basis,” he said.

The Department of Education said the market valuation of Harold’s Cross was carried out by the Valuation Office in accordance with a number of standards, and the current restrictive zoning was referenced in the €23m valuation.

“Suitable potential school sites in the area are limited, and this site is ideally located given its relatively central location. In the unlikely event planning is not granted initially, given the zoning, the department would work closely with council officials to develop a plan that would meet the planning requirements,” a spokesperson said.

A commercial valuation for the IGB could not be disclosed to the PAC due to commercial sensitivities. But Mr MacSharry said he expected to find it was significantly less than €23m if it is given to the committee after a sale.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said there is a narrative out in the public, which may or may not be true or fair, that the Harold’s Cross sale is essentially a Government bailout of a failed Government-appointed quango.

“It strikes me as remarkable that the valuation again hits the bullseye here, because it essentially just completely wipes out the debt,” he said.

The committee heard earlier this month that the Department of Agriculture asked the IGB to talk to the Department of Education when the board decided in March to sell the stadium. However, it emerged yesterday that Department of Education officials had already assessed the site in early 2016.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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