FCC puts horse before cart in bold loan move

by Sylvia Pownall
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FINGAL County Council is aiming to borrow €70 million before the end of the year to put infrastructure in place ahead of projected growth.

The local authority will become the first in Ireland to enter a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank so it can provide roads and amenities to service development.

The capital will translate to a staggering €180 million, which the council plans to plough into roads, buying landbanks, and providing greenways, swimming pools, community centres, parks and playgrounds.

At its monthly meeting on Monday, council chief Paul Reid said finances were stretched to the max as a result of “phenomenal” growth in Fingal.

Senator James Reilly (FG) said the move was historic and brave. He told The Gazette: “The potential is huge. We need for once in our lives to be putting in place the infrastructure before the population explosion.”

The EIB is funded via taxpayers’ money from all 27 EU member states and the bank makes loans at low interest rates to fund infrastructure and other projects, but this is the first time a local authority in Ireland has sought to borrow.

Council officials gained the support of members to advance negotiations and plan to sign an agreement in early December if the final terms are approved by councillors. The money would be drawn down over five years and paid back over 25 years.

Director of enterprise, economic and tourism development, Ed Hearne, said on Monday: “From our perspective there is no risk associated with this.

“We are effectively proposing to front-load our anticipated stream of development levies to make sure the infrastructure is there in advance.

“We want to unlock land for housing through roads projects, provide community infrastructure, tourism projects, and environmental projects.”

Cllr Tom O’Leary gave the initiative a broad welcome on behalf of Fine Gael, but some expressed concerns that by taking the lead, Fingal could be short-changed by central government as a result.

However, Senator Reilly described it as a “no-brainer” and said he was particularly pleased that a coastal cycleway and swimming pools were part of the agenda, adding: “Fingal needs to examine the development of a municipal swimming pool sports complex in high-population areas.”

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