FINE Gael MEP Brian Hayes has called on NAMA to provide a full explanation behind the decision to reject an offer from the GAA to purchase a well-known site on Dublin’s southside.
Mr Hayes said he is “disappointed” that the GAA’s bid for the Spawell complex in Templeogue was turned down, adding that he believed it “ticks all the boxes” for sport in Dublin.
The former junior finance minister, who previously represented the constituency, said NAMA has a responsibility to consider “community development” when dealing with bids for properties under its remit.
“The site is perfectly located for a major sporting facility which the GAA wanted to bring about. I think a full explanation from NAMA is now required,” Mr Hayes told the Herald.
The decision to reject the bid for the site, valued at €6.5m, was strongly criticised by Dublin GAA Chief John Costello.
“It is disillusioning and regrettable that NAMA, despite the inclusion in their terms of reference of ‘community development’, have failed once again to acknowledge the role of voluntary organisations in their disposal strategy in the generation of social capital,” he said.
But NAMA has stressed it was not the seller of the site.
“The property is being sold by a receiver who is obliged to accept the highest offer on behalf of the debtor,” a spokesperson said. “The receiver could not have accepted a lower bid simply because it was received from a sporting organisation.
“The debtor could have sued the receiver if that was to happen. Taxpayers would have been disadvantaged if the property was sold to a bidder for less than another bidder was willing to pay.”
Sports Minister Michael Ring said he could not interfere in the process at hand.
“I note reports in today’s media in respect of the purchase of the Spawell Complex in Templeogue. There was a process in place, people tendered for the property, some without success. It is not appropriate for me or the Government to interfere in that process,” he said.
Mayo TD and former GAA county manager John O’Mahony, who is chairman of the Oireachtas Sports committee, said he believed the issue of NAMA fulfilling its responsibility to communities needs to be examined. He said there was clearly confusion surrounding how much control NAMA had in relation to the sale and that this should be cleared up.
“I can see why the Dublin County Board is so disappointed in not securing it [Spawell site] and I totally empathise with them,” he told the Herald.
“I think there needs to be an examination of the legislation in the context of the ‘community development’ obligation and that may have to be looked at by an Oireachtas committee,” he added.
The complex was placed on the market a few months ago, with an asking price of €6.5m.
The Dublin County Board has not revealed how much they offered but it’s understood to have been considerably higher than the asking price.
However, they were not prepared to become involved in a bidding war once the asking price reached a certain level.
As well as providing several pitches, the site would also have been suitable for a stadium, in line with Dublin’s 2011-17 strategic plan. It envisaged the construction of a mid-sized facility, capable of accommodating around 25,000 spectators.
The Spawell Complex is located very close to the M50 motorway, making it an ideal location for Dublin county board’s plans. There is easy access to the site, which would have been a major advantage if a stadium was built there.
Situated equidistant between the St Jude’s and Ballyboden-St Enda’s clubs, it’s in the heartland of a thriving GAA area.
A long-established leisure and sporting facility, Spawell currently has an 18-hole, par-3 golf course, a driving range, squash courts and Astro-Turf pitches. It also features various commercial premises, including a pub and a garden centre.
Planning permission for a 150-bedroom hotel, a leisure centre and 579 car parking spaces was granted in 2010 and subsequently extended to 2020. Rental income from the 12 tenancies currently stands at over €600,000 per annum.
Dublin GAA has owned a 26-acre site in Rathcoole for several years, but various access difficulties hindered development plans.
Building a mid-sized stadium in Dublin has been mooted for several years.
The capacity of Parnell Park, on the northside, is limited to 10,000 and with little room for expansion on any side of the ground, development options are limited.
Croke Park is available to Dublin but its 83,200-capacity is too much for all except the big Championship games. A stadium with a capacity of around 25,000, complete with other facilities, on the southside is regarded as the ideal solution.