Glass bottle site 'should not go cheap'

 

THE IRISH Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, Dublin, should not be sold to “some asset stripper” who would buy it on the cheap, the chairwoman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority said yesterday.

Prof Niamh Brennan told the annual conference of the Society of Chartered Surveyors that one of the authority’s “large sins” of recent times was to purchase the Ringsend site at the height of the boom.

“With one role of the dice, it converted the authority from being flush with cash to being a financially stressed organisation.”

The authority was part of a consortium that bought the site for €412 million in 2006. The associated loan from Anglo Irish Bank has been transferred to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) at a discount of 87 per cent.

However, Prof Brennan said the site had to be one of the most fantastic in the whole of the country.

“Let’s not let some asset stripper come along and snap it up on the cheap,” she said.

It should not be sold to some “bottom line person” who would not care about the social regeneration of the surrounding area.

She said the movement of the docklands in a eastern direction and the development of the site as a new “hub” could assist in maximising the return now available for the taxpayer.

Responding to questions, she said the authority had no say in whether Nama chose to sell the site or otherwise, though the authority could exert influence though its planning function.

She said she hoped the two State bodies – Nama and the authority – could collaborate in the development of the site and “realise value for all of us and not for some bottom-line profit hungry organisation that would like to get that site on the cheap for its own personal gain.”

The authority was working on a new planning scheme for the Poolbeg area and might choose a more varied approach to development, with more smaller buildings than heretofore envisaged.

In answer to a question, she said the authority was not “producing a planning scheme that would chime with developers but one that chimes with the local community and the taxpayer”.

She said the development of the docklands had many wonderful aspects but had been too developer-led. However, she was committed to keeping the “fast-track” planning advantage for the docklands.

Dr Edgar Morganroth of the Economic and Social Research Institute, in an address on infrastructure development, said the recession had reduced infrastructure constraints and caused a deterioration in the public finances. In the circumstances, lower levels of investment were appropriate. Scarce resources should be used to best effect.

The founding president of the University of Limerick, Edmund Walsh, said Ireland’s economic crisis was the result of gross mismanagement over the past decade. He called for a broadening of the tax base, a reduction in the size of the public service, and cuts to social welfare and public sector pay rates.