NAMA CHIEF executive Brendan McDonagh has put on record that the State agency “has a very real interest in the decisions being made by local authorities” on zoning more land for development.
He has also said that most of an estimated overhang of 60,000 acres of land zoned but not yet developed throughout the State is “probably unsuitable” for residential or other development.
In a letter to Cork-based environmental engineer Declan Waugh, who had complained about the overzoning of land around Bandon, he said Mr Waugh was “completely correct” about Nama’s interest.
Mr Waugh had said councillors “should take cognisance of development lands owned or in the control of Nama . . . given that the taxpayer through the vehicle of Nama needs to ensure a return on these investments by the State”.
As a result, priority should be given to having these lands developed or construction completed prior to zoning of additional lands for housing.
Mr Waugh cited a draft plan for Bandon, which “seeks to zone additional land for 1,700 houses on top of the already zoned and uncompleted lands where planning remains for 1,500 houses some of which are now under the control of Nama”.
Mr McDonagh told Mr Waugh that his letter had been considered by both Nama’s planning advisory committee and by its board, and it would also be taken up with the County and City Managers’ Association.
He said the security for loans held by Nama “is property, including land. It goes without saying that Nama has a very real interest in the decisions being made by local authorities with respect to zoning as this directly affects the value of the security held for these loans.”
Mr McDonagh wrote: “We would fully acknowledge that consideration of any additional zoning by local authorities must be conducted first of all on an examination of existing zoning.”
Mr McDonagh said “any additional zoning should be in a sequential basis taking account of the required need”.
In other words, local authorities should seek to ensure that existing zoned land would be developed before embarking on further zonings.
He told Mr Waugh that the issues raised were “of both local and national importance” and that Nama intended to pursue them with the managers’ association, with which its planning advisory committee had already engaged.
Mr Waugh, a member of Cork County Council’s strategic planning committee, said he was one of a number of professionals “working for the wider interests of society” to influence planning policies. “This work was undertaken voluntarily for the benefit of local communities in the interests of sustainable development and to prevent the mistakes that led to the recent collapse of the housing market and the current banking crisis,” he told The Irish Times.
This followed a meeting of the strategic planning committee at which “the views expressed by the representative of the construction industry were regarded as fact while the views expressed by myself as a professional environmental consultant were entirely disregarded”.