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Valuable Public land worth tens of thousands of euros sold to developers for €100

category leitrim | housing | news report author Tuesday September 05, 2006 21:11author by Ray Report this post to the editors

A LOCAL authority has come under fire after revelations it sold a prime development site in a thriving town centre for just €100. Leitrim County Council last week defended its decision to sell the town centre car park, which is estimated at being worth tens of thousands of euros. The land on Church Lane just off the Main Street in Manorhamilton was sold to the Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum Ltd, a voluntary group comprising of local businessmen. They have since sold it on to developers for an undisclosed "slight" profit who are in the process of building a major residential and commercial development on the site. The development was unsuccessfully appealed by a number of local residents to An Bord Pleanala in April and involved a petitions signed by Hundreds of local people. It has further emerged this week that the County Council have agreed to purchase back some of the development for €900,000.

But local community activist Gabriel McSharry has called for a full inquiry into all aspects of the sale.
"I think it is scandalous what has happened. The mind boggles that in this day and age a piece of public property in the town centre worth tens of thousands of euro could be sold by the council for such little money," he said.
In February last year, Leitrim County Council granted planning permission to the Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum for a major development on the site and additional lots, including eight three-bedroomed town houses, 12 apartments, offices and retail units.
Conditional to the application was the much-needed provision of over 100 car parking spaces and a public amenity area.
The decision was unsuccessfully appealed by a number of local residents to An Bord Pleanala, which upheld the planning permission with 17 conditions attached. Among the concerns voiced by some local residents had been the scale of the development and the lack of privacy and light it would result in.
Concerns were also expressed about a plan for an underground car park and the impact of this on surrounding buildings. But there was further shock when it emerged within the past two weeks that the site had been sold for €100.
"When hundreds of local people opposed this development at planning stage, little did they know that the land in question was given away for next to nothing," said Mr McSharry.
"Developers stand to make hundreds of thousands of euro profit on prime property like this in the centre of Manorhamilton, while the community continues to lack the basic infrastructure required for a town of its size. It's totally unacceptable."
With work on the site at a temporary standstill, he is calling on the council to ensure that conditions attached to the planning permission are enforced.

Mr McSharry made a further claim this week that the County Council have agreed to purchase back some of the development for €900,000.

In a statement to the Leitrim Observer this week, Mr McSharry claimed that not only had the Council sold the land for a nominal fee, but it now had to buy back a portion of the land at a much higher price.
"I have investigated this case and I now have the relevant evidence and documentation which confirms that the lands in question was sold by the councillors under the terms of Section 183 of the Local Government Act 2001.

"There were only three conditions attached to the sale. These were that the formal transfer would not take place until the development had commenced and that the Council was happy that the development would be completed, that car parking lost would be replaced within the development, and that each party would be responsible for its own legal fees.

"We are being told this development will benefit everyone and that Leitrim County Council would even be provided with offices to provide a 'One-Stop-Shop' in the development.

"However, what we have not been told and what I have discovered is that Leitrim County Council will have to pay the sum of €900,000 to buy this small bit of property for the 'One-Stop-Shop," said Mr McSharry
He said it was important that the public meeting would deal with the issues raised to allay concerns among local people.

"Suggestions that the developers are going to provide extra car parking spaces for the people of this community out of the goodness of their hearts is also a nonsense.

"The reality is that the developers are legally obliged under planning legislation to provide the parking spaces in question to cater for the new residential units, offices and shops in the development.
"In fact it is the view of many local people that the car parking spaces will be inadequate to cater for the new residential units, the offices and the retail and commercial units.

"The people of this community are most anxious that the public meeting to deal with the Council's decision takes place as soon as possible.
"We now need openness and transparency and it is important that all the local councillors and the directors of the Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum attend the meeting as the public have many questions to raise with regard to the sale and development of the land in question," said Mr McSharry.

The meeting will take place in the Community Centre at 8pm on this evening September 5.

author by Mike Flannery - GPpublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SF Councillors on Leitrim County Council who voted with FF and FG to sell this public car park in Manorhamilton have publically defended their decision it seems....

SF Cllr. Micheal Coleavy has said that ‘I am not in the business of increasing the wealth of developers. I am in the business of retaining existing business and attracting new business and services to Manorhamilton and to north Leitrim generally’. ‘Let us not jeopardise potential development by misinformed comment and complaint every time we attempt to make progress’, he said in criticism to statements made by the spokesperson for the local residents and former Labour Party stalwart in North Leitrim Gabriel McSharry.

author by ali la pointepublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

SF councillors in Derry colluded wholeheartedly with the sale of the entire Foyle riverbank to private developers for £1. Handing the riverbank over to their gangster muckers for a nominal fee is how SF envisage reclaiming Irelands natural resources for its people. The councillors had been given control of the riverbank by the British Monarch, whose legal property it has been. What visionaries!

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 19:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I concur with Gabriel McSharry - some sort of inquiry is called for here, and a public one at that. When its work is done in Leitrim, perhaps it will shift its sights to Galway.

author by Packie G.publication date Wed Sep 06, 2006 21:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

At the outset of last nights Pubic Meeting in Manorhamilton it was the Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Colreavy, who attacked Gabriel McSharry and defended the sale of the Council property for €100. Colreavy also acted as spokesperson for the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors !

Having launched the attack on McSharry he went on to complain that McSharry was “undermining the integrity of local democracy” by raising questions about the matter. The Sinn Feiner also complained about the “anti-progress brigade” in the town. “Unless we are all wearing the same jersey there will be no progress in Manorhamilton” the Sinn Feiner said.

The spokesperson for the Enterprise Forum said that his group was originally called the Manorhamilton Business Peoples Association. But recognising “they had no hope of getting public funds with that name” they changed the name to Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum!!

He described the Enterprise Forum as an “Enabling Vehicle” !

The spokesperson for the Enterprise Forum also complained bitterly that McSharry had written to Donnacha McSorley, Manager of ADM/CPA in Monaghan, seeking details of the ADM/CPA grants to the Enterprise Forum !!

The meeting was told that the Enterprise Forum had sold on the entire site (worth a small fortune) to a developer for the sum of €675,000 - following the receipt of only one tender.!

When people from the floor named names, the guys at the top table said they could not confirm or deny that a member and former officer of the Enterprise Forum was now a director of the development company that was developing the site.

Sligo’s Declan Bree was on local radio today saying that in his 25 year in public life that he had never come across such a scandal. He said the local establishment in Manorhamilton were livid with McSharry because he highlighted and exposed what has been happening. “It was like a cosy cartel last night with developers, councillors, auctioneers and council officials taking one side and ordinary people and residents taking the other side.”

Mc Sharry and Colreavy were also on radio. McSharry refused to be bullied and stood his ground. He has really opened up a can of worms. What is amazing is that Sinn Fein are up to their neck in this scandal

author by Jake R.publication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 09:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can anyone provide information about the number of SF business people involved in the Enterprise Forum and if they are directors?

author by Flynn - agrescon@agrescon.nlpublication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:21author email agrescon at agrescon dot nlauthor address author phone 0031102102055Report this post to the editors

Here we go again, and Im sorry to say, I told you so,the People of Eire must be allowed to Use the Constitution ,or these sort of cases will occur, more frequently as Eire,s generous Tax exemptions are made clear,to the People. The lowest in the EU, little wonder then every Shizter is making a Beeline for Eire. I prefer to think,that the situation is one of ignorance,or that honest people are attempting to do their best for their Communities, sugested action is to appeal to the High Court, or a retired Judge for reference into the issue. Sounds a bit like Rover Cars for a Tenner ? Flynn O Flynn.

author by Left...outsidepublication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 14:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems to me that what ever fancy footwork was done in putting this "deal" together that saw developers getting their hands on some prime development land for a pittence,the elected councillors for Manorhamilton have some serious questions to answer.I would have thought that it would have been Sinn Fein leading the charge to expose this scandal but it seems that Councillor Colreavy is up to his kneecaps in the rip off as well.Sinn Fein councillors in the other half of the constituency only recently refused to get involved in an anti war demo in south Sligo and attended a civic reception to honour the pro Israeli Mayor of New York,Bloomberg, in Sligo.You would have to think that the "chuckys" are getting ready to do deal with Fianna Fail and try and win the next election with them if Sligo/Leitrim is anything to go by.

author by no surprisepublication date Thu Sep 07, 2006 14:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

this should be a surprise to anyone, it has been happening all over Ireland for the last 10 years +,i still remember the day when Ireland was announced as the most corrupt country in the Eu

Not much has changed since then it seems...

Related Link: http://www.publicinquiry.eu/
author by misinformedpublication date Mon Sep 18, 2006 18:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have to say it was most amusing when loads of people invaded Fitzwilliam Square. I was sitting there with my friends when someone broke one of the service gates and loads of people flooded in with cans and placards.

One of the leaders then proceeded to give a speech about how the land was under private ownership and was in effect an abuse of what should be public land. I took it upon myself to open all the gates to let everyone in, as the plants were getting destroyed underfoot. I had to point out to the guy making the speech that the square was privately owned by the Pembroke family (as is most of the land in D2,4,6 and 8, either in ground rents or leaseholds). The square is leased from the mid 1960's on a 100 year lease.

Unfortunately the owners did sell an option to Treasury Holdings to build an underground carpark on the land, which would be awful if it were ever come to pass.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that the speechifying dude ignored my comments about the fact that the place was accessible to residents and those wishing to organise a party, once permission was granted. He seemed more concerned about the righteous indignation suffered by all Dubliners in the face of 'private' rule of quasi-public space.

That said, he did get everyone to clean up when they left. Some stayed behind and we all got mashed, but that's another story.

author by symbolicpublication date Tue Sep 19, 2006 10:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And would permission have been granted to these protestors mr informed. No is the anwser.

author by Packie G.publication date Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors


The chairman of the charity which acquired the car park is now developing it. He denies any conflict of interest. By Marese McDonagh

In recent weeks there has been a furious debate in Manorhamilton about the sale by Leitrim County Council of the 27-space car park in the centre of town for €100 to a registered charity known as the Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum.

The forum was set up in 2003 "to act as an enabling vehicle for the creation of new enterprise and the overall enhancement of the town's environment".

It sold the car park and adjoining land, known locally as the "Backlands", which it had also acquired, comprising 1.65 acres in total, to a local developer for €675,000.

The chairman of the forum at the time the car park was acquired and the entire site sold to developer Pat Slevin, was Finbarr Ryan, who owns two chemist shops in Manorhamilton.

Six months later, in April this year, Finbarr Ryan, having consulted with his fellow directors on the forum, set up a new company with Pat Slevin to develop the site. Currently they are the only two directors of Backland Developments, which will construct the €8m development comprising a civic square; 14 townhouses; retail and office units; a €900,000 one-stop-shop for Leitrim County Council; and underground and overground car parking, with 117 spaces in total.

Part of the agreement made between the forum and council was that 27 spaces would be reserved for the council.

Supporters of the project believe that the council's effective give-away of the car park was an astute move, as it will facilitate the regeneration of the commercial heart of the town. Noel Loughlin, project manager of the forum, pointed out that without the access provided by the car park, the rest of the site would be effectively land-locked and the entire development would be blocked.

Local community activist Gabriel McSharry is insistent that the sale of the car park for €100 was a "scandal" and he has called for a public inquiry into the affair.

The development was always a controversial one – over 200 locals signed a petition opposing it when it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

Finbar Ryan's role, which is only now emerging, is certain to fuel the debate which continues to rage in the north Leitrim town.
He was adamant this week that there was no conflict of interest and he would not accept that his role "looked bad". He said, "At that point [April 2006], the Enterprise Forum had no further interest or involvement in the site."

Finbarr Ryan added that in order to ensure that the forum was not put in an embarrassing situation "even though I believed there was no problem", he consulted his colleagues on the board before accepting Mr Slevin's invitation to come on board. After consulting its legal advisers, the forum informed him that there was no conflict of interest.

Finbarr Ryan, who was not on the forum sub-committee which handled the sale of the site, has resigned as chairman of the forum but remains as one of its 10 directors.
He confirmed to Village that he has in the past been involved in other ventures with Pat Slevin, but would not elaborate. "I do not think it is relevant," he said.

He also pointed out that while initially there had been six expressions of interest in the project, after planning permission was granted only one tender had been received, which he said countered the argument that the site was a steal for the developer.
Community activist Pat Love, who runs the Manorhamilton-based North Leitrim Mens' Group and is chairman of the County Community Forum, says he is genuinely puzzled at local opposition to the project and concerns about the sale of the car park at Church Lane for such a tiny sum.

"Manorhamilton has lost nothing but it has gained a lot," he insisted. "It will get a new town centre as this development is effectively a new street linking up to the existing main street. It is also getting a new state-of-the-art car park. It will get jobs and new shops which are badly needed."

Noel Loughlin said a major project was needed to ensure the survival of the commercial heart of the town and he pointed out that the Backlands had been identified in the Manorhamilton Framework Strategy as a suitable location for development.
"The main street of the town had died on its feet," he said. "The forum was set up because of our concerns that Manorhamilton would become a satellite town for commuters to Sligo and Enniskillen."

Related Link: http://www.villagemagazine.ie
author by G. Mc Gpublication date Fri Sep 22, 2006 13:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Congrats to the Village and Marese McDonagh on further highlighting what Gabriel McSharry correctly describes as a “scandal”.

It’s no surprise to see that “community activist” Pat Love, supports the decision to sell off the land for €100. Given Pat Love’s long time support for Sinn Fein councillor Michael Colreavy he will obviously tow the party line.

Interesting to note that Colreavy himself did not make a comment to the Village. Sinn Fein supporters nationwide would be horrified if they discovered the role SF in Leitrim played in this scandal.

author by Left....outsidepublication date Fri Sep 22, 2006 15:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anyone who has lived or worked in this area for the past number of years would not be in the least bit surprised at the goings on in local politics in the area.The councilors in Manorhamilton are a law on to themselves.One local councillor who ran a successfull business in the town had yelloew lines removed from the front of his shop so as people could park in front of his business and were unable to park anywhere else.I think the former Tanaiste,Mary Harney, got in to a spot of bother using a government plane to fly up to Leitrim and open the said same shop.Maybe they were able to park the jet in front of his shop....I cant remember.What is surprising however, is Councillor Colreavys involvment in this whole saga.Sinn Fein's GHQ in Belfast will not be best pleased with the profile he is giving the party locally and nationaly.The general election candidate,Councillor Sean McManus will be looking for someone else in the Manorhamilton area to do the canvassing when the election is announced,Colreavy is now a liability to Sinn Fein locally and in Sligo/North Leitrim generally.In the good ol'days he would have been bundled in to a car and............................!!!

author by Jake R.publication date Sat Sep 23, 2006 18:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Why is Sinn Fein head office staying so silent on this issue.?

How many of the directors who stand to benefit from the development are members or financial supporters of Sinn Fein?

Why the deafening silence?

author by The Watcherpublication date Mon May 14, 2007 19:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Im not really surprised about SF Councillor Colreavey been one of the main supporters for the sale of public land to speculators for E100. You see Mr Colreavey really dosent know the value of anything as he has spent all his working life as a public servant as has his father before him, his brothers his sisters his own children , his wife, and most of his nephews and nieces .Theres a standing joke in the NW area. "Whats the shortest book in the world ? Ans : A history of Colreaveys that have worked in the private sector."

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