FERMOY TOWN COUNCIL IN DOCK OVER HOUSING LAND OWNERSHIP
High Court proceedings have commenced against Fermoy Town Council for building houses on land that it is alleged it does not own. In a report submitted to the town council by the Local Government Audit Service, town councillors were advised that 43 local authority homes which were built on the Pike Road back in 1999 were, in fact, constructed on land not owned by the council.
The reports states ‘in 1997 the council entered into a contract for the purchase of 5.7 acres of land at Pike Road for £139,000. The contracts were drawn up, signed by the council and issued to the council’s solicitor together with a deposit cheque in the sum of £14,000. The vendor never signed the contract’.
While the contact and the transaction for the sale of the land was never completed, Fermoy Town Council proceeded with the development.
Planning permission was granted and construction began on lands not owned by the council in 1999 (or in 2011). The report continues, ‘in 2009, the administrator of the vendors’ estate commenced High Court proceeding against Fermoy Town Council. The council is currently bringing an application to the High Court to join their solicitors as a third party to the proceedings’.
The auditor also advises that Fermoy Town Council ‘should properly accrue for associated legal costs and for any contingent liability identified by the solicitors’.
FULL REPORT DEMANDED
Speaking to The Avondhu Cllr Noel McCarthy said that he could not comment on the situation at this time, “The matter is before the courts and I cannot comment. However, I will be demanding a full report on the situation in the fullness of time.”
Cllr Seamus Coleman said that there were more questions that needed to be answered, “This is crazy, what went wrong? The councillors need to be given all the facts. How did the council build on land it does not own? As I have said, it’s crazy,” Cllr Coleman said.
Cllr John Murphy was equally amazed at the report, “I don’t understand how something like this could happen. This has a knock on effect on any tenants who wish to buy their homes from the council as the council is not the owner of the land. However, this may have a beneficial effect as house prices are dropping and the case will take sometime before it is sorted out,” Cllr Murphy said.
However, Cllr Olive Corcoran wants to know why it took an audit report for the town councillors to learn of this High Court action.
Cllr Corcoran brought this matter to the attention of the other councillors at last Tuesday night’s council meeting without too much success: “I can’t understand why this hasn’t been brought to the attention of the councillors until now. I felt that this incredible situation needed to be aired. What legal advice has Fermoy Town Council received?”
“I want to see a list of all the land that is owned by the council or indeed a list of land it thinks it owns. Apart from the fact that the council built homes on land it cannot prove it owns and now many of the tenants who might wish to buy their homes cannot do so. The Irish taxpayer will now have to foot the bill for a High Court action that should never have taken place. This is truly amazing.
Moreover, I want to know what the councillor who were in situ at the time that all this was going on were doing and what exactly did they know and who made the decision to commence building homes on land that the council does not own,” Cllr Corcoran said.
CALLING FOR MEETING
Mayor of Fermoy Pa O’Driscoll is calling a meeting of all councillors next week to discuss the situation.
“This all happened before the present town clerk or manager took over so more details are needed before I can comment. I will however be looking for a full and open report into the current situation,” Cllr O’Driscoll said.
SHOCKED AT NEWS
One resident (who did not wish to be identified) who lives at the Pike Road and is about to set out to purchase his home was shocked to learn that his plans would now have to be put on hold.
“How could something like this happen? I can’t understand how it took 10 years for all this to come to light. Surely someone must have known that the land was not the council’s before construction began? I was hoping to buy my home later this year. Now, it seem I have no choice and will have to wait and see if all this can be sorted out.”
Fermoy town clerk Ray Owens told The Avondhu that he could not comment at this time.
“As this matter is the subject of a pending High Court action it would not be appropriate to make any comment,” Mr Owens said.
Thursday 21st April 6:43pm