Belfast Telegraph

Stormont rapped for land sale 'shambles'

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A Co Antrim church's plans for a vast complex have been been embroiled in controversy since they were announced last year when the Government's handling of the sale of the land was labelled "a shambles".

Green Pastures bought the Government-owned 97-acre plot at Ballee in Ballymena for £4m. It had reportedly been previously valued at £75m.

The Government acquired the plot from a group of Ballymena landowners through a compulsory purchase order in 1970.

Back then it had been intended to use the land to expand the town.

Ballymena man Denis O'Hara's family once owned about 38 acres of the ground, but it was vested by the Government in 1970.

He was part of a consortium that tried to buy it back in 2011 when it offered £6.5m for the land, which was rejected by the Department for Social Development.

DSD sold it to Green Pastures the following year for £2.5m less.

"It's been a shambles from the start.

"They were offered £37.4m a number of years ago – they rejected that offer," Mr O'Hara claimed when the land was sold to the church.

Mr O'Hara added that the department "could have got £6.5m just over a year ago and now they are accepting £4m – so even the taxpayer has not got a good deal on this."

He said yesterday that DSD had told him at the time of his consortium's bid that the land was valued in the region of £9m.

A DSD spokeswoman yesterday said: "The lands at Ballee Road East have been sold at the asking price of £4m, subject to contract.

"Any previous offers made were rejected because they were below the valuation at that time," the spokeswoman added.

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