Dáil Éireann - Volume 538 - 21 June, 2001

Other Questions. - Army Barracks.

10. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the sale of lands by his Department adjoining barracks in respect of which announcements have already been made and others which may be under negotiation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18312/01]

41. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Defence if he will explain his policy regarding the sale of military property, lands or equipment; the pur[1045] pose of such sales; the estimated duration of this policy; the reason this policy was not enunciated in the Defence White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14586/01]

42. Mr. Enright asked the Minister for Defence the property under the control of his Department which is considered by the military authorities to be surplus to military requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17643/01]

55. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the total amount of funds designated for community use from the proceeds of the sales of houses or barracks; if funding has been handed over to community groups or local authorities; the criteria which has been put in place to allocate such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18324/01]

77. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence the total amount of funds designated for community use from the proceeds of the sales of houses or barracks; if funding has been handed over to community groups or local authorities; the criteria which have been put in place to allocate such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18384/01]

93. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Defence the property under the control of his Department which is considered by the military authorities to be surplus to military requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17662/01]

107. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the disposal of the various military installations closed since 1998; the extent to which targets have been realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18457/01]

Mr. M. Smith: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 41, 42, 55, 77, 93 and 107 together.

The Government, on 15 July 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks which are considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question are located at Fermoy, Ballincollig, Naas, Kildare, Castleblayney and Clancy Barracks, Dublin. Five of the barracks have been vacated while the sixth – Clancy Barracks – will be evacuated this year.

Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, is in the process of being sold to Cork County Council for economic development of the site in conjunction with the IDA. The agreed price is £767,000 and it is hoped the formalities of this sale can be completed in the very near future. The lands will be developed and marketed as a strategic industrial site to attract inward investment. This development will greatly assist in the continuing revitalisation of Fermoy and will greatly enhance its potential for future industrial development.

The former Devoy Barracks, Naas, County Kildare, comprises an area of approximately 22 acres. I agreed to cede seven acres free of charge [1046] to Naas Urban District Council and to sell one acre to Kildare County Council for £300,000, all for local community purposes. I have also agreed to sell the remaining 14 acres or thereabouts, which are zoned for housing, to Naas UDC for £7 million. The legal formalities to give effect to these agreements are progressing and I expect them to be completed very shortly.

The Castleblayney property is in the process of being sold to the North Eastern Health Board for £600,000 and sale contracts have recently been signed. Pending completion of the legal and financial formalities, a caretaker's agreement was completed and the former barracks was handed over to the health board last year on foot of that agreement. The legal formalities to complete the sale are progressing.

It is envisaged that the child care project by the health board for the site will provide for 45 permanent appointments and a sum in excess of £1 million will be invested on the provision of the necessary facilities. In addition, the annual revenue to the town is estimated to be in the region of £1.2 million. The proposal from the NEHB includes a gymnasium, an all-weather pitch and a swimming pool. I understand these facilities will be made available to the local community when not in use for child care purposes.

A comprehensive integrated action area plan was commissioned from independent consultants to provide for the future development of the largest of the barracks concerned, Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig. That plan provides for a wide range of community, amenity, residential and commercial uses for the property. The development of the Murphy Barracks lands will be critical in the future overall development of the town of Ballincollig. My Department submitted the integrated plan to Cork County Council in April 2000, for consideration in the context of a variation to the existing Cork county development plan. Discussions are ongoing between Cork County Council and my Department to determine the best way forward to realise the potential of the integrated plan, while taking account of the aspirations of all sides. It is hoped to bring the matter to conclusion at an early date.

With regard to the need for accommodation, the vacated Magee Barracks, Kildare, is now providing accommodation for asylum seekers. I have also agreed to provide one acre to the local authority for a temporary halting site for 20 persons for a period of one year. In view of those needs, it has not been possible to arrange for the disposal of the property. However, this matter is being kept under review.

Clancy Barracks, Dublin, will be evacuated in the near future when alternative accommodation becomes available. My Department, following a tender competition, has appointed selling agents, Hamilton Osborne King. The barracks of 13.65 acres was offered for sale by public tender. Bids were received for the purchase of the barracks on 14 June and are currently being considered.

In addition to the foregoing properties, agree[1047] ments have also been reached for the sale of the following: 1.07 acres at Arbour Hill to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for £2.5 million; 6.39 acres known as Susan's Field, adjoining Collies Barracks, Cork, to Cork Corporation for £1.2 million; 3.0192 acres at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, to Limerick Corporation for £915,000; 1.559 acres at Waterford Barracks to Waterford Corporation for £550,000; 20 acres of the Curragh lands to Kildare County Council for £215,000 to assist with the construction of the Kildare by-pass; and married quarters at Orchard Park, Curragh, County Kildare to residents, which will realise £3 million approximately. The disposal of ten acres at Mellows Field beside Renmore Barracks, Galway, will proceed as soon as is practicable.

I have also decided to sell approximately 150 acres at Gormanston camp. However, the military camp of 57 acres will not be sold. It is too early to estimate the likely proceeds from this sale as the preliminary planning is still in progress. As can be seen, many of the properties are destined for disposal to local authorities in recognition of the increased needs for building lands being experienced by them. A number of smaller surplus properties are also being sold to various individuals at present.

In addition to the foregoing properties which are surplus to requirements and in the context of the White Paper on Defence and the management of resources in the best possible way, the military authorities have been asked to identify any additional properties considered surplus to requirements. This process is ongoing. As indicated, the disposal of barracks is proceeding and it is expected that up to £100 million will be realised from the sale of the properties. The moneys raised from the sale of the six barracks earmarked for disposal in 1998, and those additional surplus properties since identified, will be used primarily for re-equipment and refurbishment within the Defence Forces.

With regard to the disposal of equipment, the military authorities from time to time establish boards of survey to determine when certain items are obsolete and due to be reduced to scrap. The scrap material is then sold by way of sealed tender competition. Running contracts for the disposal of such equipment are normally placed for periods of 12 to 18 months duration.

Mr. Wall: In the debate on the Defence Estimates I raised a question regarding Magee Barracks, County Kildare. The local authority area committee is undertaking a development plan for Kildare town. The Minister accepts it is of vital importance to the town that a determination be made regarding the barracks apart from what has been decided in terms of asylum seekers and the halting site. Will he impress on his Department and the local authority the need for progress this issue, including making a decision on the acquisition of the land by the local authority and the [1048] plans by the Department for its sale to ensure the development plan for the town can proceed? If the overall development for the town is to be completed, a pivotal part must include these lands. The Minister accepts that.

Mr. M. Smith: Located as they are in the centre of Kildare town, these lands are critical for the proper development of the town and I am anxious to proceed. When we discussed this before I indicated to the Deputy that I started from the premise of wanting to deal with this on the basis of an integrated action plan. That had to be deferred because of the way the site was being used for purposes for which we did not originally envisage. I have now concluded that there is a need to consider seriously the remaining part of the site and to commence negotiations on that aspect. I will ensure that in the near future meetings take place with regard to an examination of the issues involved.

Mr. Shatter: With regard to Clancy Barracks, will the Minister detail the nature of the discussion that took place between him, his Department and Dublin Corporation concerning the possibility of releasing some of the lands to Dublin Corporation to facilitate it in tackling the housing crisis in the city? Will he indicate why, as a consequence of those negotiations, no lands were ceded to Dublin Corporation? Why is it the case that in or about the time the lands in the barracks were advertised on the market the Dublin city manager expressed disappointment at the out-turn of events?

Mr. M. Smith: From all of my dealings with the local authorities, community interests and State agencies, it will be clear that I was very much engaged in trying to ensure the community needs of each of the towns involved in the disposal of lands were met. In the case of Clancy Barracks the story was no different. We immediately became involved in negotiations regarding its sale with the Department of the Environment and Local Government and Dublin Corporation. The early indications were that the corporation was very interested in the site. I was happy with that arrangement but subsequently, after approximately 12 months, we were informed that its interest had waned and it expressed the view that the site could be best dealt with through a public sale involving commercial interests with perhaps a housing element. The site was then put up for sale and we have received bids which are under consideration.

I am still open to the corporation purchasing the barracks at a reasonable price. Instead of repeating the arrangement I made in other small towns, I will take account of the position of the site in the price because it does not present itself as suitable for part disposal in this way. However, I will take account of the corporation's interest in the overall value of the property.

[1049] Mr. Shatter: Will the Minister detail the involvement of the Department of the Environment and Local Government? Was specific funding sought by Dublin Corporation from the Department to facilitate the acquisition of Clancy Barracks or a part of the lands comprising the barracks? Did difficulties arise between the Department and Dublin Corporation in meeting the financial requirements of the Minister?

Mr. M. Smith: It did not reach that stage because, as the Deputy is aware, I am obliged to obtain valuation for all public properties through the Valuation Office, which was done in this case. I cannot be certain about this but it appears there was no application for special funds for this purpose by the corporation to the Department of the Environment and Local Government. It did not reach the stage of the corporation making a bid for the property. We indicated the value placed on the property but prior to the current sale the corporation was never in a position to make a bid, so it did not proceed.

Mr. Shatter: Dublin Corporation could not have made a bid without the provision of funding by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Is the Minister saying that if the Department provided necessary funding to acquire Clancy Barracks to Dublin Corporation it is still open to the corporation to proceed on that basis with a view to providing housing accommodation at that location in the future?

Mr. M. Smith: As I have indicated many times, my door is open for that to happen. It appears the corporation has decided it has no serious interest in the site.

Mr. Timmins: Will the Minister confirm that 100% of the funding received from these sales will be reinvested in the Defence Forces? If that happens, although the granting of seven acres to Naas Urban District Council and Kildare County Council may be a noble act, it will ultimately result in a loss of approximately £3 million to the Defence Forces.

Mr. M. Smith: It is not unusual for Opposition parties to take both sides of an issue at the same time. We did it ourselves in the past and I am not complaining. However, the Defence Forces would want me to deal comprehensively, conclusively and generously with the communities in which they served and worked and are now leaving. That is being done. We are trying to get the best possible value in the circumstances and make provision for the community, local authority or public interest.

It would be regrettable, given his vast experience in the Defence Forces, if Deputy Timmins stayed in the fair until 7 p.m. until he got the last penny from the farmer who could not even afford to have a cup of tea or bowl of soup during the day. We are addressing both ends of the matter. [1050] The Defence Forces would want the Department to ensure they leave a good taste in the areas they are vacating and that our actions continue to serve the community rather than adopt an attitude that we have lost because seven acres have been ceded. We have not lost anything.