Sunday 6 September 2009

Greens press to rezone land in Nama’s hands

The government is considering giving itself powers to rezone thousands of acres of development land for social purposes while it is in the hands of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Cabinet ministers are studying how to meet Green party concerns over future plans for vast tracts of development land being valued by Nama as part of a move to take €90 billion of impaired property loans off the books of Irish banks.

The Greens are seeking to ensure that portions of the land — which face huge writedowns under Nama — are set aside for building schools, hospitals and community facilities. The government is considering giving extra planning powers to the environment minister in a development bill, not in the Nama legislation.

Eamon Ryan, the communications minister (pictured above), and Dan Boyle, the party chairman, were in talks with Brian Lenihan, the finance minister, last week about the shape of the Nama legislation and related Green party concerns.

Ryan and John Gormley, the party leader, also pressed their demands for Nama-related measures at three separate cabinet meetings last week which were dominated by talks on the complex design of the banking-sector rescue vehicle.

One government source last week said that more than 20 different drafts of the legislation had been circulated to ministers since the first version of the Nama bill in July.

The Greens are also demanding the introduction of a “windfall tax”, a levy on developers who enjoy an increase in the value of their land holdings because of a rezoning decision or the construction of taxpayer funded infrastructure such as a nearby Luas or Metro line.

One Green party source said Gormley had sought this measure more than a year ago. The party is determined to seek safeguards to limit taxpayer exposure under Nama and to reduce the risk of a future property bubble through the application of the tax.

The party’s case will be boosted this week with the publication of the Commission on Taxation report, which includes a windfall tax on developers in its recommendations.

Further cabinet meetings on Nama will take place this week ahead of the recall of the Dail on September 16 to debate the Nama bill. Ministers are hoping that the legislation will pass all stages in the Oireachtas by mid-October.

Green members will gather in Athlone on Saturday to debate their concerns about the legislation. Green ministers and Oireachtas members will deliver a progress report on Nama to the membership and seek views on the elements required in the legislation.

The party will hold a full convention in October to ballot its members on the Nama legislation and the revised programme for government.

Sunday Times

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