Controversial docklands initiative gets back on track

THE Limerick Docklands Initiative (LDI), which involves a master plan for the future development of 44 acres at the city’s port, was back on track last night.

The plan, which was drawn up by Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC), Limerick City Council and Shannon Development was put on hold last August after protests from politicians and port users about the possible closure of the port to shipping.

LDI envisages developing the port area as a major, residential, business, recreational and tourism area.

But the port company provoked a storm of opposition when they invited expressions of interest from developers for the development of the entire site which would have meant the closure of the docks.

Following talks, the SFPC announced yesterday that a new consultative steering group has now been set up under the chairmanship of Tom Kirby, Mid-West Regional Authority director.

The docks area has been valued by developers at more than €200 million and is seen as the potential jewel in the Mid-West property crown, given it’s strategic location.

The chairman of the SFPC, Kieran McSweeney, said Mr Kirby would now seek proposals and feedback in relation to the future of the docklands from all stakeholders with immediate effect.

Outside interests will also be asked to make submissions. The process will take not more than six months.

Mr McSweeney said: “This is both a challenging and exciting task. We have agreed on the terms of reference for this process and they will give us a balanced framework with which we can proceed on this all-inclusive consultative process.”

Mr Kirby said this new development presented a very positive opportunity.

He said: “Right now we have a blank page in terms of what the potential outcome of this process will be. Absolutely nothing is decided at this stage but every option or submissions we receive will be given its due consideration. We are determined to arrive at the best decision collectively for Limerick Port, Limerick City and the Mid-West region.”

Liam Woulfe, who heads the port users group which led opposition to the total sell-off of the 44-acre docks area said they were looking forward to a logical and sensible discussion over the coming months with a view to coming up with a long-term solution that is in everybody’s interests.

Shannon Development, which is also one of the key stakeholders involved in the LDI, said consultation was an essential element in a process involving an area of such pivotal importance for Limerick city and the entire region.

Shannon Development chief executive Kevin Thompstone said: “The future of Limerick docklands must be carefully planned. It is essential in that regard that there is full consultation with all stakeholders and this will ensure the best return for all concerned from this exciting opportunity.”

The terms of reference will include the option of retaining a working dock as well as for allowing commercial development of adjoining areas in the docklands.

SFPC said earlier this year they need to raise more than €100m to finance much-needed shipping improvements along the Shannon Estuary.

Limerick’s docklands is the company’s most sellable asset.

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