In a statement, Council said: “In March 2021, following a legal dispute instigated by the Notice to Quit and threatened court action, Council made the decision, after long consideration to ‘Acknowledge Montague Estate’s title and Notice to Quit, surrender the building on the condition that an indemnity is provided from the Estate that no liability for rent or repairs for over holding rests with Council.
“Throughout Council’s long consideration of this matter legal advice confirmed that Council holds no title deeds for the building.
“The Montague Estate holds title.
“Council’s Legal Team advised Council that the land in question is not registered in the Land Registry. Registry of Deeds searches were carried out from the 1930s to present and have no entries relating to the purchase of the Town Hall with a freehold title from the Montague Estate, (the building opened in around 1935).
“Council is aware of the PRONI document, but legal advice obtained and presented to Council advised that PRONI records are not proof of title and are only useful at providing general information.
“It is possible any “purchase price” mentioned may relate to a premium under a long lease. PRONI records also show Montague involvement with the Town Hall into the 1960s.
“Council holds no title to the land and therefore Council does not consider Section 96 relevant as no transfer of land has taken place.
“The possibility of a community asset transfer to the people of Portstewart can only proceed with the agreement of the legal owner of the building, the Montague Estate. The community is free to engage with the Montague Estate regarding this matter.