POLITICIANS in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown have expressed disappointment and anxiety over the sale last week of Ashcastle near Booterstown nature reserve to a private investor for about €1m last week.
The 4.8-acre site, which falls within the boundaries of both Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Dublin City Council, was sold by Frank McKnight Auctioneers and Real Estate Agents to an unnamed developer.
Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind) said NAMA had turned down a joint offer from both councils to buy the site some years ago, and that the site had changed hands twice since the councils made their first offer.
He said An Taisce’s nature reserve management committee had long argued that the site should come into public ownership and be protected from any development because of its sensitive location close to the Booterstown nature reserve and bird sanctuary.
He added: “In view of these facts, I am calling on both [councils] to enter into discussions with the owners of the site in order to extend and protect the nature reservation and habitat of Booterstown marsh and the surrounding area.”
A spokesperson for Dun Laoghire-Rathdown County Council said the identity of the new buyer and their intentions for the site remained unknown, and discussed the council’s earlier attempt to buy the site.
“In January 2012, a joint bid, in the region of €90,000, was submitted for the site by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Dublin City Council.
“We were extremely disappointed when the receiver responded by advising us that a decision had been made to dispose of the site on the open market.
“The city valuer subsequently submitted a revised bid in the region of €200,000 which he understood at the time was above the highest offer that had been made and above the reserve.
“The city valuer was contacted in early March, 2012 by a representative of NAMA and advised that the sale process had concluded with a bid of €400,000.
“He was also advised that if the two councils matched this bid, a recommendation would be made to the board of NAMA to dispose of the site to us.
“The councils refused to match the €400,000 bid and expressed disappointment that NAMA seemed unable to take any account of the broader public interest.”
According to Cllr Ossian Smyth (GP): “The site has now been resold for a rumoured €1m. Even at that price, the councils [DLRCC and DCC] should have taken a long-term view and acquired a rare public amenity.”
A NAMA spokesperson said the agency had no part in the latest sale of Ashcastle, and that its involvement with the site ceased following its sale by a receiver in 2012.
Cllr Barry Ward (FG) said: “I am opposed to any construction on this site and I will actively oppose any attempt to grant planning permission here. It was our intention that this site would become a wilderness park and a public amenity.
“I believe it will be difficult to get permission for any substantial development at this site from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but more than half the site is in Dublin City Council’s area.
“However, there can be no question of any development [encroaching] on the Booterstown marsh.”
Cllr Michael Merrigan (Ind) said: “A wonderful opportunity to extend the nature reserve to include both a wetlands environment and woodland to further enhance and protect the biodiversity of the area has been lost, [and] for what? Another office block?”