Land Development Agency voices concern over delays

Stalled deliveries of housing on State-owned land focus of board meeting, minutes reveal

‘Major construction projects are complex and shifts in timeframes are commonplace both in the private and public sector,’ said the Land Development Agency. File photograph: Bloomberg

‘Major construction projects are complex and shifts in timeframes are commonplace both in the private and public sector,’ said the Land Development Agency. File photograph: Bloomberg

 

Members of the board of the Land Development Agency (LDA) have raised concerns that it is not offering enough to attract an executive to lead its housing construction plans.

Meanwhile, the board has also raised concern over the number of delays to its projects aimed at delivering housing on State-owned land, according to minutes released under the Freedom of Information Act.

In a briefing for the board, LDA chief executive John Coleman spoke about “key hires” being among the agency’s priorities, including an executive in charge of construction at a salary of €110,000.

The role, the board noted, is “crucial” and members expressed surprise the salary offered would “not attract the level of expertise and experience required to discharge the role”.

The board agreed the job advertisement should be allowed run its course but, if an appropriate candidate was not identified, the specification should be reviewed “with a view to recommending a higher salary for the role”

On Tuesday a LDA statement said: “The recruitment process is ongoing and the LDA is hopeful that it will reach a successful conclusion shortly.”

The May meeting of the board took place after the departure of its former interim chairman John Moran.

Mission curtailed

Mr Moran, the former secretary general of the Department of Finance, claimed in April that the LDA’s mission appeared to have been curtailed and a €2.5 billion allocation for delivering housing was “insufficient”.

The Department of Housing insisted at the time that all of the agency’s funding requirements to date had been provided for and “if additional capitalisation of the LDA is required . . . that is something that can be considered at that time.”

Legislation to underpin the work of the LDA has since been enacted and the agency which is tasked with using State-owned land to boost the delivery of homes is an important part of the Government’s plan to tackle the housing crisis.

The LDA released minutes from 2021 board meetings to the Irish Times.

On May 11th, the agency’s head of property delivered an update on the status of the LDA’s “primary portfolio, near-term opportunities, strategic sites and sites under construction”.

The minutes say: “The board noted that the number of delays to projects was concerning and advised the head of property to prioritise sites which could be progressed to construction without delay.”

Timeframe shifts

The Irish Times asked the Land Development Agency for estimates of the level of delay for its projects.

An agency statement did not provide such details but insisted it was making “significant progress to advance its schemes throughout Ireland”.

It said: “Major construction projects are complex and shifts in timeframes are commonplace both in the private and public sector.”

Planning processes, site access due to the Covid-19 pandemic and procurement strategies being tailored to obtain the best value for money were cited among a “range of internal and external factors” that contributed to this.

The statement said: “The LDA has a general approach of expediting delivery on its identified pipeline, and all decisions that impact timeframes are taken in order to balance quick delivery with risk management.”

It highlighted how planning has been approved and a tender process is in place to appoint a contractor for the construction of 597 social and affordable homes at Shanganagh, Co Dublin, where the “first homes will be completed in 2023”.

It also said a planning application was to be submitted for approximately 1,200 homes on the site of the old Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum around the end of the year.

A design review has been completed to inform the regeneration of a 50-hectare site at Colbert station in Limerick and planning permission has been approved for the construction of 266 homes at the site of the former St Kevin’s Hospital in Cork.

*This article was amended on August 4th, 2021