Investigation into Wicklow land deal

 

THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment’s role in a deal in which Wicklow County Council agreed to pay €3 million for land previously valued at below €700,000 is to be investigated by a senior counsel appointed by the Attorney General.

Last July a majority of Wicklow county councillors voted to approve management plans to complete the purchase of the three-acre site near Charlesland after they had been told a compulsory purchase order had been initiated in 2006.

In a briefing note for the July meeting members were told a valuation of €5.2 million had been placed on the site, but the lower figure of €3 million had been agreed with representatives of the owner and occupier.

At the July meeting council management told the members the money would be recouped from the department, as the land was earmarked for housing. Councillors voted to buy the land by 15 votes to three.

Auctioneering sources in the county have now valued the land at “no more than €400,000”.

“The key issue here is why were the councillors not given more information and what happened to the assurances we were given that the department would recoup the money,” Councillor Tommy Cullen (Ind) said yesterday.

A spokesman for the department said an application had been received from the council for recompense for the land purchase “and this is still under consideration”.

However, he said “a number of issues had arisen” which had led to the department asking the Attorney General to appoint a senior counsel to investigate the deal. The spokesman said the senior counsel would be looking at the department’s handling of the affair.

In a short statement the department said: “At the request of the department, the AG’s office have engaged senior counsel to initially review this department’s handling of this case. We cannot add anything further at this point.”