Donegal Councillor Dessie Sheils says the response he received this week in relation to concerns about potential land deals involving politically connected people not only fails to give the commitments he sought, it actually raises more questions.
Cllr Sheils wrote to the council expressing concern some of the persons involved in negotiations to sell property to to the council may be connected to elected representatives.
He is seeking a commitment that no deals will be done with such people, and that any deals be conditional on approval by the members.
He says the council has confirmed that discussions have already taken place..................
Cllr Sheil's letter and the council's response -
Can you confirm if the Council are presently negotiating with Landowners in Donegal to purchase land for social housing including around Letterkenny. Concerns have been raised with me that some of the persons involved in negotiations to sell property to the Council are connected to elected representatives. Please can you confirm what the position is and with whom exactly the council have been negotiating.
Given the sensitive nature of the issue of the Council purchasing land etc I will now be seeking that all future purchase contracts by the Council be conditional upon same being brought before a full council meeting for approval and scrutiny by the elected members and also I will be asking that all vendors sign a statutory declaration declaring that they are not connected to elected representatives either past or present (with through family relationships or through being involved in election campaigns in any particular position such as director of elections) and that no elected member either past or present has (or has had any prior beneficial or legal interest) in the property being sold or in any company owning such property (if held by a limited company).
I am looking for an immediate commitment that no property is going to be purchased by the council from any of the types of persons listed above.
Councillor Dessie Shiels
Statement on the Implementation of the Social Housing Strategy 2020
As part of the implementation of the Social Housing Strategy 2015-2020, the Council is looking at a number of options in terms of meeting the targets provided by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government and projects which will be approved / funded by them. The principle aim of this approach is the provision of social housing in areas where the greatest need exists. These options include:
- New build / construction
- Returning vacant houses to productive use
- Projects under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) in co-operation with Approved Housing Bodies.
In terms of the New Build / Construction option, it has been the Council’s approach to, first of all, examine our existing landbank and sites where Part VIII Planning approval is already in place in order to expedite the delivery of units under this option.
The Council received confirmation on Friday, 24th July, 2015 regarding allocations announced on Thursday 23rd July, 2015 under the Social Housing Strategy 2015 – 2020 by Minister Alan Kelly TD, and Minister of State Paudie Coffey TD,
The announcement confirmed allocations to Donegal Co. Council under two main headings within the Strategy:
- Social Housing Construction Programme
- Capital Assistance Scheme.
Under the Social Housing Construction Programme, the following projects were approved to proceed:
Location Units Costs
Carndonagh 4 €680,000
Dunfanaghy 6 €905,000
This allocation under the Construction programme is in addition to the allocations confirmed earlier in the year for the following projects:
Location Units Costs
Donegal Town 24 €3,650,000
Ardara 8 €1,300,000
Newtowncunningham 6 €850,000
The Council has submitted further project appraisals to the DECLG for consideration and is hopeful that further approvals will be forthcoming. These include proposals Manorcunningham (8), and Letterkenny (28) on existing landbanks.
Under the Capital Assistance Scheme, the following projects were confirmed:
Approved Housing Body Location Units Costs
Oaklee Housing Trust Donegal Town 10 €651,000
County Donegal Parents & Stranorlar 5 €143,547
Friends Housing Association 15 €794,547
These allocations under the CAS scheme are in addition to the approval confirmed earlier this year for the provision of 3 Group Homes in Dungloe working with the Parents & Friends Housing Association. The CAS scheme is generally targeted at providing suitable housing accommodation for the Elderly and people with Special Needs. The Council has been very proactive in this area working with various Approved Housing Associations and the HSE.
From the work done to date, it is evident that sufficient land bank may not be available to meet the need in some locations, particularly Letterkenny, and the Council is likely to seek to acquire further land bank in the near future in this area.
In this regard, the Council has an established Land Assessment Criteria for the Social Housing Strategy, which includes the following:
- Level of demand for social housing in the area;
- Is the land zoned for Housing?
- Number of Units the land might yield
- The land is serviced – water, drainage, electricity services adjacent the site and a capacity exists to treat waste water from the proposed development.
- The nature of the land is conducive to economic house construction – land reasonable level with good ground conditions
- Archaeologically and Environmentally appropriate
- Represents value for money
It is confirmed that the Council has had preliminary discussions with a number of landowners in the Letterkenny area to examine the potential of lands for purchase to meet the objectives of the Social Housing Strategy. The Council proposes in the very near future to place an advert for land procurement in Letterkenny and inviting expressions of interest from land owners in this regard. Each expression of interest received will be examined in light of the criteria set out above.
It is also confirmed that the acquisition of lands by the Council for any purpose is an Executive function and the Council will comply with the requirements of the Local Government Acts in this regard.
Director of Services,
Housing, Corporate & Planning Control Services.
30th July, 2015.