Under Section 96(5) of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, councils have the right to dispose of land but are required to seek the approval of the Department if the disposal of land and property is at less than best price or best rent. The full wording of Section 96(5) is as follows:
“The right of a council to dispose of land shall be subject to the following restrictions:
(a) except with the approval of the Ministry (Department), any disposal of land shall be at the best price or for the best rent or otherwise on the best terms that can be reasonably obtained.
(b) any disposal of land which has been acquired otherwise than by agreement shall be subject to the right of pre-emption conferred by Section 128 to 131 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act 1845.” Councils must also bear in mind the guidance contained in the Disposal of Surplus Public Sector Property in Northern Ireland, issued by the Central Advisory Unit of the VLA; Circulars No LG 03/06 dated 1st June 2006 and LG 02/08 dated 11th January 2008, from DOE Local Government Division.