Council forced to put site back on market

Efforts to sell a publicly-owned landbank in Cork — which have been mired in controversy since 2011 — look set to be scrapped again.

The latest twist in the Deanrock site saga follows confirmation last night that a major player on Cork’s retail scene has offered €500,000 for the 2.83-acre site — €50,000 more than what’s on the table now.

Following legal advice, city officials told councillors last night that since they now have a higher offer, they can’t legally sell the site under the terms of the current disposal process because the previous €450,000 offer is not the “best reasonably obtainable”.

It means that the current sale process will be scrapped — the third time an attempt to sell the site has collapsed — and the site will be placed back on the open market.

Business partners, Kieran Coughlan and Claire Riordan, the pair involved in the development of the Blackrock Hall primary healthcare centre near the Eden complex, had offered €450,000 for the site.

Their development proposals included a primary healthcare centre. But their plans for a discount supermarket on the site sparked controversy.

Objections were raised locally over this part of the plan, and councillors also voiced concern over how the tender process was handled. Despite being told earlier this year the council had been threatened with legal action, exposing it to potential damages of some €15m in relation to the sale, councillors blocked an attempt to finalise the disposal, and they sought their own independent legal advice.

However, the latest twist in the story emerged last night after a meeting of the council’s housing committee.

The council’s acting chief executive, Dan Buggy, told councillors that the city received “an unconditional offer” of €500,000 for the site from Liam Ryan on April 10 last. Mr Ryan runs SuperValu in nearby Togher, and branches in Grange, Glanmire, and Kilmallock.

Mr Buggy’s report said: “With regard to the offer made by Liam Ryan, while financially more attractive to Cork City Council, my advice is it would be more appropriate in a rising market for the site to be put back on the open market.”

He said councillors should now consider their position as to how best to deliver a primary health care centre on the site.

Local Fianna Fáil Cllr Fergal Dennehy called for proper consultation with the community in the preparation of a new planning brief for the site.

The issue is due to come before a full meeting of council next Monday.

Timeline

-2007: Just over 108 1970s-built “eyesore” flats are demolished on the Deanrock site. It lies idle for four years.

-March 2011: The Irish Examiner breaks the story that City Hall proposes to sell the site, before telling councillors, who react angrily and halt the sale. Two weeks later, the site is taken off the market.

-December 2011: The site sale is re-advertised. The council invites development proposals, to include a primary health care centre.

-March 2014: A report is prepared for councillors asking them to approve the disposal by private treaty of the site to Kieran Coughlan and his business partner Claire Riordan for €450,000.

-April 2014: Controversy emerges over plans to build a discount supermarket. It later emerges the city council has been threatened with legal action, exposing it to potential damages of up to €15m. Councillors seek independent senior counsel advice on how the tender process has been handled.

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