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RTÉ sells part of its Montrose site for housing: the price €107 million

RTÉ has agreed a deal to sell just under nine acres of land at its Donnybrook campus in Dublin to Cairn Homes for €107.5 million.

The agreed sale price for the 8.64 acres of land far exceeded the guide price of €75 million, set by estate agents Savills.

London-listed Cairn Homes said the Donnybrook site was a “prime location in a unique setting which has strong potential for apartment development”.

The company plans to develop up to 500 apartments and nine houses on the site and the transaction is expected to close during July 2017.

RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes says the decision to sell the land was taken because RTÉ has been operating with vastly reduced commercial and licence fee income of about €100 million annually.

She adds that the funds raised will be invested in capital projects, including much-needed technology upgrades and key digital infrastructure, as well as making changes to the organisational structure, essential workplace improvements and reducing debt.

RTÉ has lost €100 million in revenue since 2008, while income from licence fees and commercials has dropped.

“RTÉ lost €10 million in advertising revenue alone as a result of Brexit and a curtailment of advertising spend last year,” says Dee Forbes.

“RTÉ has been operating with vastly reduced commercial and licence fee income, now in the region of €330 million, compared to €440 million in 2008, and has been under-investing in the organisation for nearly a decade now.

“That is unsustainable. The funds from the land sale will be used to invest in much-needed technology upgrades and in key digital infrastructure, to reduce debt levels, and to carry out other essential workplace improvements.

“The reality is that RTÉ has maintained services and output on vastly reduced income. That is no longer sustainable. The current licence fee, at just over 40 cent per day is, I believe, great value.

“Any notion that it be doubled is nonsense. What I am focused on is reform of the fee collection system to recover some €40 million per annum that is lost to the entire Irish media sector every year through evasion.”

RTÉ has confirmed that funds raised from the land sale will not be used against operational deficits.

Dee Forbes added: “This does not represent a bonanza or a windfall for RTÉ. Rather, RTÉ is playing catch-up in an industry and market that is evolving rapidly.”

According to Savills, the single land holding at Donnybrook represents one of the largest, predominantly residential, development opportunities in Dublin 4 and is being sold with a detailed feasibility study for a high-quality housing scheme, designed by O’Mahony Pike Architects.

Cairn Homes’ Chief Executive Michael Stanley believes Montrose represents Dublin’s most attractive residential development site.

“At Cairn, we believe in building exceptional homes in great locations and the Montrose site will significantly add to the new homes we will bring to the market over the coming years,” he says.

“The single land holding at Donnybrook represents one of the largest, predominantly residential, development opportunities in Dublin 4.”

Cairn Homes company is currently undertaking major apartment developments at both Marianella in Rathgar and 6 Hanover Quay in Dublin city centre.

The overall property, earmarked now for development, forms part of the existing RTÉ Montrose complex, which consists of approximately 32.12 Acres. The site also accommodates one protected structure called Mount Errol House, dating from the 19th century, which is currently used as office accommodation and for training purposes.

The subject lands have the benefit of two access points, one off Ailesbury Road and the other via a new, dedicated junction off the Stillorgan Road. This will be completed by Quarter 1 2018.

However, there has been no confirmation as to whether project ‘Project Montrose’ will contain an element of social housing within its remit. Current Irish planning guidelines indicate that such should be the case.