Lochside Garage

‘Ratepayers will foot the bill for Necarne’, warns coun

THE COUNCIL HAS approved a 99-year lease to develop Necarne Estate in Irvinestown, as a potential holiday retreat complete with accommodation, activities and event-space, as part of ambitious plans to preserve and enhanced the property.
However, there have been problems, not least from objectors to the proposed development, as well as the bringing forward of the matter by Council to an earlier meeting and the prevention of open discussion in the chamber.
In addition, the maintenance of the castle, a Grade B listed building registered at risk, will continue to be met by the council who will also be required to undertake works to make the structure safe and any further works required.
The cost of this has yet to be established and investigations into this are ongoing.
This has drawn particular criticism from Independent Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh who said effectively ratepayers will be left to fund the castle, from which the benefits will be reaped by the private developer.
The 230-acre estate, with its 17th century mock castle fell into serious disrepair from neglect, and the estate itself was previously leased for 25 years to Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) where equestrian courses where held.
But in 2012, these were transferred to the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Enniskillen, leaving the equestrian facility unused.
With no exit from the lease, which is scheduled to end in 2023, DAREA was required to continuing paying some £100,000 a year for maintenance and upkeep of the facilities.
The council indicated its plans to source long-term sustainable use and has now approved the proposal put forward by Gardrum Holdings to create a holiday accommodation, outdoor activities, walkways and cycle paths, an equestrian trail, event space and reinstatement of Necarne Lake.
Any development though will still be subject to planning approval.
Branding the decision, “scandalous” Councillor O’Cofaigh was also critical it occurred behind closed doors.
“The council voted overwhelmingly to lease of Necarne Estate with its 280 acres and £8 million equestrian assets, to a private company, for £20,000 a year, with assurances the public can freely enter the grounds when not being used for ‘events’.
“I strongly objected to approval, but my objections were largely either dismissed or ignored in the chamber. The vote was deemed unanimous despite my clear objections and, I was required to point that out for the record.”
“While the private sector entity will seek to profit, the council will retain liability for the dilapidated castle. Already, £350,000 of ratepayers’ money has been allocated to removing ivy. The cost of stabilising the structure is likely to be substantially more. Should the council invest millions in renovation, it will effectively be for the sole commercial benefit of lease-holder.”
Meanwhile, the council released a statement around the lease, confirming approval Fermanagh of terms, in line with plans by Gardrum Holdings Ltd is to create a multi-purpose tourism and leisure destination.
Councillor Chairwoman Siobhan Currie, confirmed the council has remained committed to finding a long term proposal for the Estate that would benefit the Irvinestown and Erne North community, as well as the wider district.
“The council is pleased to have reached this stage in the interest of transforming the Estate into one which, through substantial private investment, attracts employment and visitors and preserves and enhances the heritage and natural environment to be enjoyed by locals and visitors,” she added.

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