Donegal land sale suggestion “floating around” - Shiels

Councillor unhappy at official response

By Eamonn McFadden

Reporter:

By Eamonn McFadden

Email:

eamonn.mcfadden@donegaldemocrat.com

Dessie Shiels

Cllr Dessie Shiels.

A councillor who asked if any member of Donegal County Council made a proposal to sell land to the local authority has voiced his dissatisfaction at the response given to his query.
Councillor Dessie Shiels said it has been “suggested” to him that either an employee of the council or an elected representative of Donegal County Council, or both, have made a proposal to sell land to the local authority for social housing. He asked to have his question answered “unequivocally” at Tuesday’s meeting of Letterkenny Municipal District.
He said the suggestion “was floating around”, adding that it appeared someone within council “was not happy with that process”.
His motion stated: “That this Council confirm unequivocally whether in the last 18 calendar months any proposal been made to sell development land to this Council for social housing where such development land was owned either legally or beneficially by (a) an employee of this Council or (b) an elected member of this Council and that this Council make a full and detailed statement on the matter.”
Cllr Shiels said the answer provided was not adequate and it should be a “simple yes or no” and if it was the case there would be a “conflict of interest”.
Councillor Liam Blaney seconded his motion.
Director of Services, Liam Ward, said the motion, as presented, “was answered”.
Mr Ward's written response stated: “Donegal County Council are currently progressing the design of a Social Housing Scheme at Long Lane, Letterkenny incorporating 29 housing units.
The council is also engaging with the voluntary sector on proposals for a development of significant scale in the town. As part of the Social Housing Investment Programme, Donegal County Council advertised in 2016 for suitable land to safeguard the provision of social housing in the future. Expressions of interest were evaluated under; Location and zoning available infrastructure Department of Environment Criteria for Social Housing and Creation of Sustainable Communities. None of the initial expressions of interest progressed to negotiation stage, and hence no proposal was made to Donegal County Council to sell development land. Donegal County Council plan to re-advertise for land and turnkey acquisition projects in Letterkenny in quarter one 2017 and to continue to engage with the voluntary sector to advance suitable projects.”
He added “external evaluation” was part of the process and all members and staff of the council were aware of their ethical responsibilities under the Local Government Act, adding he was “satisfied it has not arisen”.
Cllr Shiels said he would submit the same question for next month’s meeting, but to have it include the wording to cover “expressions of interest”.