Page last updated at 06:08 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 07:08 UK

3m horse breeding scheme fails

Horse-riding at the Necarne estate
Necarne Castle is also home to an equine centre

An ambitious horse breeding programme collapsed in 2001 despite more than 3m in grants, the Audit Office has found.

The Sport Horse Genetic Testing Unit was set up in 1996 with mostly EU funding to breed better horses.

The government spending watchdog found that the project's centre on the Necarne estate, near Irvinestown, was built without planning permission.

It also found a stock of frozen horse semen, valued at 45,000, was accidentally destroyed.

Sport Horse went into liquidation in 2001, the same year the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont condemned the Department of Agriculture's handling of the project - revealing conflicts of interest and poor financial practices.

The Audit Office report reveals the department is committed to seeing out a 25-year lease of the estate at a cost of 300,000.

Future operating costs until the lease ends in 2023 are about 3m, but it is unclear what the department's current plans are for the site.

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