A Belfast developer won a major battle against Limerick City and County Council yesterday, when he got the go-ahead for a new shopping centre near the University of Limerick, which opens the way for Marks & Spencer to move into the city.
Suniel Sharma says his new centre will be provide an additional €35m boost to spending in the city.
The council had refused Mr Sharma permission to build a development, named Horizon Mall, on the grounds it would militate against its 2030 master plan to redevelop the city centre.
Up to 60 city centre business people, many members of the Limerick Business Association, also objected.
However, An Bord Pleanála yesterday overruled the council and gave Mr Sharma planning permission for the 74,500sq m development.
Mr Sharma says his centre will employ 400 construction workers and create 1,300 full-time retail jobs.
He was not making any comment yesterday.
However, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins, who backed the plan, accused the council planners of giving the developer the “runaround” in trying to block the development.
“The council should now explain themselves, as to their reasons for blocking the development having been totally overruled by An Bord Pleanála.
“I have spoken to Mr Sharma today and he is delighted. He says the new development will bring an additional €35m spend into Limerick, along with the jobs it will provide.
“The anchor tenant, a Marks and Spencer outlet, will be their biggest outside of Dublin and will be a huge attraction in bringing in shoppers from a huge catchment area.”
I don't subscribe to the 'group think' that nothing can happen in Limerick until something happens in the city center— Niall Collins (@NiallCollinsTD) April 10, 2015
The Bord Pleanála approval stipulates the development must be completed by August 2016.
Mr Collins said: “This will not be a problem. Mr Sharma has been working away on the project on the assumption he would get the go ahead and all his plans are up to speed. He is confident by next August the centre will be as near completed as to make no difference.
“What makes me angry is that the original developer was given permission for a much bigger development and when Mr Sharma acquired the site, he downsized the plan and was refused. The refusal of the council to his proposal was not logical and now they have some explaining to do.”
Helen O’Donnell, chairwoman of the Limerick Business Association, which opposed the development, said: “We are deeply disappointed. We feel the focus of all new retail development in Limerick should be in the city centre, as envisaged by the 2030 plan, for the city centre revival.”
Limerick Chamber of Commerce said they were concerned the development will have adverse consequences on the economic wellbeing of the city centre.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said: “We are considering the implications of the decision.”
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