A 450-acre landbank fringing Cork City and assembled at a cost of over €100m is being sold by Nama for about €7m.
Political and property commentators, as well as other prospective bidders, have queried the speed of the sale of the land between Douglas, on the southside of the city, and Carrigaline, given that it was never on the open market.
The land had been earmarked as a new location for Douglas Golf Club. The club was given a non-refundable €5m as part of the deal to redevelop the golf club as a housing development.
Estate agents Savills confirmed it had agreed a sale, which is due to close shortly on the 450 acres, to an undisclosed buyer. Savills described the bidding as competitive and recommended the sale as the best price possible.
Savills had acted for the land’s owners, developers John and Elaine Barry of Castlelands Construction, and for Nama.
The green-belt unzoned land, which had been assembled from about around half a dozen farmers back in the mid-2000s for values ranging from €60,000 to €300,000 an acre, is likely to have averaged between €15,000 and €20,000 an acre, with development hopes having evaporated.
A Nama spokesman said “the sales process was independently managed by Savills, on behalf of the debtor, and was designed to obtain the best achievable price for the property”.
He said the sale strategy “was a matter for the professionals retained” and the price achieved “was above that which was considered feasible prior to sale”.
Asked if the land should have been publicly advertised and put for sale openly by tender or auction, he said “the strategy for engaging with interested parties was a matter for the professionals retained.
“It was a competitive process and this is reflected in the fact that the final price achieved was above that which was considered feasible prior to sale, having conducted an independent valuation.”
The Irish Examiner has spoken to the previous owners and the land’s tenants, several of whom said they would have had an interest in buying part of the land, but they either could not engage with Nama, or did not know it was about to be sold.
According to Nama “the fact that the property was sold as one lot, rather than as fragmented lots, was also a consideration from the debtor’s perspective”.
Local sources say the purchaser is a Cork farmer who began buying farms in the area seven years ago.
He later sold those farms to Barrys/Castlelands for the land swap to facilitate a huge housing development on the golf club lands on Maryborough Hill, Douglas.
He could not be contacted yesterday for comment.
Liquidator for Castlelands Construction Conor Pyne said the lands had been held by the Barrys, and not by the company.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman and local TD Michael McGrath criticised aspects of the sale, which he said lacked transparency.
He said he was surprised “a landholding of this size and importance should be sold without being put to the open market”.
The the public needed to know that every interested party had had the chance to bid, he said.
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