Show society in 126-acre purchase

HOME at last — the Munster Agricultural Society (MAS) has finally found permanent exhibition grounds at Curraheen, Cork, following five years of searching.

In a deft piece of outside-the-box thinking, the society has joined forces with UCC to buy the 126-acre farm from receiver PWC, and indirectly, from Nama.

The property used to belong to development company, JJ Fleming and Co. Builder John Fleming purchased the 126-acre farm from the Murphy family in 2005, for a whopping €17 million — just shy of €135,000 per acre.

This time round, the purchase price has retracted to somewhere between €3m and €4m — with a base figure of €24,000 per acre, which still takes the land way beyond agricultural values — but it’s a lot less than the €30,000 per acre the society was believed to be asked to pay for other lands west of the city. Based on the highest level purchase price indicated, and taking into account a sum of €31,746 per acre, MAS’s portion of the site, some 75 acre, will cost the society up to €2.3m.

Its compensation payment from Cork City Council was €11.5m, which leaves the society with a good deal of change, to finance the creation of a new base.

The farm at Curraheen fits their criteria, in that it’s bounded by the N25/Ballincollig Bypass on one side, and the old Curraheen road on the other, with access off the Clash Road in part. Crucially, the land is minutes from the Curraheen interchange, and close to the new Marymount Hospital and the Curraheen Park greyhound track.

Long term, it will also have access to the final link in a proposed north ring road.

Munster Agricultural Society intends to run this year’s Cork Summer Show from the new site, and says it will retain 75 acres of the total, with about 50 acres taken up by UCC for sports facilities.

In the long term, the society may again join forces with UCC in the overall plans for the site, which may or may not include large indoor or covered spaces, parking and other facilities.

According to Gerard Murphy of the MAS, it’s early days yet for long term planning: “We’re going to take a breather and prepare for Cork Summer Show 2012. Then we’ll deal with how to develop the site overall to its best advantage for the Munster Agricultural Society.

“The work is only starting, buying is the easy bit, now we have to get down to work.”

The society’s portion of the sale includes three fields to the north of the bypass route, accessed off the Clash road.

Right now, the Munster Agricultural Society says that land could be used for surface parking during show time, but in the long term, many farmers in the area might be interested in buying any portion MAS decides to dispose of.

MAS moved from their centuries-old base at the Showgrounds, Ballintemple following a compulsory purchase order by Cork City Council.

The society received €11.5m, following arbitration (parts of their former grounds were sold to the GAA by Cork City Council late last year for €1.7m).

There was an outcry at the time that the sum paid for the seven-acre site was a “bargain sale” of public land, and did not reflect the price paid to MAS by Cork City Council.

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