There’s been a some media coverage of the land being transferred from local authorities to DEHLG (€650m worth, 2000 hectares, see here) and from developers/banks to NAMA (€several billion, thousands of hectares).  The state is rapidly gaining a concentrated control of a massive land bank.  The priority for NAMA is to make sure that the loan is paid back, or its sold on and a profit is realised.  At the same time, the state controlling so much land offers some opportunities with respect to mid-to-long term spatial planning, especially infrastructure developments, including public utilities such as schools, etc, and IDA-backed ventures (and the state has paid huge sums for such land over the past decade, especially through NRA, etc).  It also offers potential for thinking about leasing schemes, where the state realises an income over 50-100 years or more, rather than off-loading back to the private sector at the earliest opportunity.  This is an idea forwarded by Eoin O’Cofaigh in the letter to the Irish Times.

It seems to me that there is much to be explored here as to what might be the best strategy with respect to managing land for the public good, land that has fallen 75-95% in value and will realise little back in the short term if sold on other than to put huge chunks of land back in the hands of investors who can then realise huge profits when the state looks to use it in the future.  DEHLG and NAMA need to start a dialogue about plans for such land, especially concerning local authority and private land that is contiguous, and this conversation needs to have the long term public good at its heart.  In my view, this dialogue should not be limited to DEHLG and NAMA, but there should be a wider a public debate.

So, what’s your view about what the state should do with the massive land bank it now controls? 

Rob Kitchin