Friday 6 May 2011

Millions wiped off value of land in dezoning

DEVELOPERS have taken massive hits on the value of their land banks, as one-in-three local authorities have dezoned land earmarked for development.

The moved has wiped hundreds of millions off the value of land across the country -- with taxpayers facing a massive bill for NAMA loans linked to land returning to agricultural use.

Planning Minister Willie Penrose said yesterday that 12 of the State's 34 local authorities had made changes to their development plans which has resulted in thousands of sites now being classed as unsuitable for development.

Last year, local authorities were ordered to dezone, rezone or forbid development on massive land banks to comply with tough new planning guidelines which set out where houses and commercial units could be built.

The move came because councillors had zoned enough land during the boom years to build more than a million homes that were not needed.

Councils had previously zoned more than 44,000 hectares of land for housing over the past decade.

This was 31,633 hectares more than was actually needed.

Any development land that is dezoned instantly loses a huge portion of its value.

This equates to enough land for almost 1.5m houses and apartments -- but just 400,000 units are needed up to 2016, according to the Department of the Environment.


Speaking at the National Planning Conference in Galway, the minister said that 12 local authorities have already changed their development plans, adding that all 34 councils will have dezoned land by the end of October.

"I recognise that this is a difficult task for local authorities but I am encouraged at the progress made to date," he said.

A reliance on development levies along with pressure from developers and landowners led to a frenzy of rubber-stamping during the boom. One-third, or €20bn, of the toxic property loans going into NAMA are linked to land, meaning taxpayers could be stuck with massive loans linked to fields that may never be developed.

Mr Penrose also said that a blueprint to tackle ghost estates is to be published next week.

More than 2,800 housing estates have been identified where construction has started but has not been completed.

Paul Melia, Brian McDonald and Treacy Hogan

Irish Independent

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