I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the former Garda stations in Ardagh and Ballinalee County Longford are vacant. There are no vacant former Garda stations in Co. Westmeath.
In May of this year, my officials wrote to 12 local authorities advising them of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme funding that is available from the Department of Community and Rural Development. Following this communication, Longford Co. Council expressed an interest in acquiring the former Garda station in Ballinalee.
As there is no State interest in the former Garda station in Ardagh it is planned to dispose of the property by public auction in 2022.
As the Deputy may be aware, the Office of Public Works (OPW) manages and maintains a substantial and complex estate - approximately 2,500 properties -– valued at around €3.3 billion.
It is a diverse portfolio that includes office accommodation for all Government Departments, the property estate for An Garda Síochána and numerous properties for many State Agencies. The portfolio also houses specialised spaces such as public offices, laboratories, cultural institutions, warehouses, heritage properties, visitor centres and sites.
In any major portfolio, there will always be a certain level of vacant properties. Not all vacant properties are deemed surplus to the State’s requirements or deemed suitable for disposal.
The OPW, like other State bodies, is obliged to follow central Government policies and protocols on the disposal of surplus properties.
As a matter of policy, no property or site is disposed of until there is absolute certainty that there is no alternative State use for that property.
The OPW’s approach to managing vacant properties is firstly, to establish if the property is needed for alternative State use; if it can be re-purposed for Government Departments or the wider public service.
A number of strategic properties or sites are retained in case of future State use or development. We have to be in a position to meet demands arising from Government policy changes to public service provision.
Secondly, if no State use is identified, the OPW considers open market disposal – depending on market conditions.
Thirdly, we may consider community involvement, depending on a detailed submission showing that a community or voluntary group can insure, maintain and manage the property.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has had a disposal programme in place for many years, which is a normal part of managing any large property portfolio. In 2014, there were almost 240 vacant surplus properties, including the 139 closed stations.
Since 2014, the number of vacant and surplus properties reduced to 102 properties. This reduction includes 125 income generating disposals - generating income in excess of €22million for the Exchequer. Included in the remaining 102 surplus properties is 37 of the 139 Garda stations that were closed in 2012 and 2013. The disposal programme for these specific properties began in January 2014, but was delayed because of a request from An Garda Síochána (AGS) in 2016 to postpone further disposals while two policing reviews were undertaken. The Reviews by AGS were completed in December 2018 and the OPW restarted the disposal process in January 2019. The programme of disposals was further interrupted by Covid-related lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, though the OPW progressed a number of transfers or disposals where it was feasible.