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Watchdog warns about £9m land grants that produced no social housing in Northern Ireland

Words: Roger Milne
Housebuilding / iStock

Almost £9 million of public grants to housing associations for land for new homes did not produce any social housing in Northern Ireland, Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee has complained.

The Helm and Trinity organisations received the money in the form of so-called Advanced Land Grants (ALGs).

Helm did not use land at Great Georges Street in Belfast, purchased using public money, which was expected to provide 130 homes. Trinity failed to build on land in Crossgar, Co Down, due to problems with planning permission for the 12-unit project, an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee revealed.

Michaela Boyle, committee chairwoman, said: "It seems clear from the evidence given to the committee that the scheme was wide open to abuse. 

"We were also extremely concerned that not only did Helm not use land at Great Georges Street purchased by a department grant of £8.1 million, a third party was able to buy the land at a lower price and then sell it to Helm - netting the third party a profit of £3.25 million within 24 hours.

"This is completely unacceptable and has never been explained, despite being investigated," she concluded.