The controversial 150ac Thornton Hall Farm, bought by the state in 2005 for nearly €30m or €200,000/ac, is now rented out to a farmer for just €200 a month.
Originally acquired for a proposed 1,400 capacity super prison, the project never got off the ground in north Co. Dublin due to the economic collapse.
In total, over €50 million has been spent on the project, including additional land purchases, road access costs and the provision of water, telecommunications and sewage services.
In 2015 the farm was valued at just €2.4m and is currently valued at €6.5m due to its agricultural zoning.
After what the Prison Service described as “incursions” into the country in 2018-19, resulting in significant additional costs, a decision was made to have a continuous presence on the premises to prevent further intrusions.
A tender for a grazing license agreement was published in April 2019 and a first license was signed in June 2019 for a period of six months at a nominal fee of €200 per month.
This license has since been renewed for six months, with the last license being agreed for three months through July 2022.
The Prison Service said there have been no further incidents of trespassing/burglary since the agreement was reached.
Of the 150ac farm, only 40ac is now of interest to the prison service, said Ms Oonagh McPhillips, general secretary of the Department of Justice, at a recent Public Accounts Committee meeting.
“The remainder of the site is available for development by the state. We reported this to Fingal County Council in 2015 and 2016 and we had an extensive discussion about the proximity or lack of such proximity to Ashbourne,” she said.
“The Council considers that it is outside of its zones in terms of suitability for housing.”
Referring to the original cost of the land, she added: “I’ve heard people more knowledgeable about land values than me describe that period of 2004-2006 as a silly season in terms of land values.
“Sure, if you look at this exercise, it looks like it.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/farm-property/farmer-rents-state-bought-30m-thornton-hall-for-just-200-a-month-41680591.html Farmer leases €30 million state-bought Thornton Hall for just €200 a month