For Written Answer on : 15/06/2022
Question Number(s): 24 Question Reference(s): 31095/22
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the vacant properties currently owned by the Office of Public Works in east Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The former military barracks at Mitchelstown, Co Cork is the only vacant property owned or managed by the Commissioners of Public Works in the Cork East Constituency.
The military barracks was occupied by the Department of Defence from 1934 until October 2014 when it was handed back to the OPW.
The OPW offered to sell the property to Cork County Council at an independent valuation, under the Protocols for the Transfer and Sharing of State Property Assets (DPER Circular 11/2015), or to transfer it to the Council on the basis of a long lease. Cork County Council have advised that they are not interested in either purchasing the property or taking it on a leasehold basis.
There are complex title issues associated with the former military barracks, which are currently being examined. When these issues have been resolved, the property will be prepared for disposal in line with the OPW’s aforementioned policy on disposals.
The Office of Public Works (OPW), like other State bodies, is obliged to follow central Government policies and protocols on the disposal of surplus properties. The approach to managing vacant properties is firstly, to establish if the property is required for alternative State use, including the potential for it to be re-purposed either for Government Departments or for the wider public service.
As a matter of policy, no property is disposed of until there is certainty that there is no alternative State use for that property. The OPW, as a matter of course, consults with the Land Development Agency, Local Authorities, the Health Service Executive, the Department of Education and other State bodies in advance of any decision on the future of a property.
In addition, a list of vacant properties and sites has been provided to the Departments managing the humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine.
Once it has been established that surplus properties are not suitable for alternative State use, the OPW then considers if open market disposal is a viable option. Prior to disposing of a property, the OPW may re-evaluate the property’s potential and decide whether there may be a benefit to retaining a strategic property or site for future use or development. In this specific context, the OPW must take a long-term view on the potential future utility of such properties rather than seeking short-term commercial gain.
Finally, the OPW may consider community involvement, subject to a detailed submission that demonstrates that the community or voluntary group seeking to use the property has the means to insure, maintain and manage it in order to reduce costs to the Exchequer.
The OPW has recently entered into a Licence Agreement with Carrigtwohill Community Council for the development of a vacant site at Carrigtwohill as a temporary community garden, pending any alternative State requirement for the site.