Meet the farmer who sold his land for €1.5m seven years ago – and bought it back for €60,000

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By Kim Bielenberg and Jim O’Brien in the Irish Independent

Friday September 21 2012

IT IS the ultimate sign of our dramatic transformation from boom to bust.

A Co Meath cattle farmer has bought back an 8.5-acre site from a developer for just €60,000 only seven years after selling it himself for close to €1.5m.

David Gilsenan from Crossakiel near Kells proved that it’s an ill wind that blows no good — at least for farmers.

At an auction in Navan, Mr Gilsenan was one of just two bidders as he snapped up land that he himself had sold for a fortune in the Celtic Tiger years.

During the boom, the site was earmarked for a housing estate with 45 homes on the edge of the village of Crossakiel.

Three local brothers — Seamus, David and Daniel Fagan — bought the site and would have hoped to receive €250,000 for each of the completed three-bedroom houses.

The Kells area is well inside the Dublin commuter belt — only an hour by car from the city centre.

But the project never got off the ground, and now only cattle rather than commuters can be found on the rich Meath pasture.

A property sign lying on the ground is a forlorn reminder of how the development site is only five minutes away from the new M3.

Yet Mr Gilsenan, whose farm adjoins the property, will not even have to remove a fence to enable his cattle to graze in the field.

The plot was never even fenced off from his own property after it was bought by the developers.

At the recent auction at Raymond Potterton in Navan, bidding started at €50,000. After four further bids the price rose to just €60,000 before it was sold at that price to Mr Gilsenan.

Mr Gilsenan, a well-known local cattle breeder, declined to comment on his bargain purchase yesterday.

A member of his family said: “This is private family business.”

At the peak of the boom, the 8.5-acre site is believed to have changed hands for about €1.5 m.

But the sale back to Mr Gilsenan is seen as part of a growing trend where development sites on the edge of rural villages are being bought by farmers and reverting to pasture.

Tom Crosse, of GVM auctioneers, said there is a realisation by banks that holding on to rural development land is pointless.

– Kim Bielenberg and Jim O’Brien

Irish Independent