County councillors have cleared an obstacle which will allow a British company lodge a planning application for a €100m 'Kildare Village' style retail centre in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.
However, the move to adopt a policy change to allow for such a type of centre to be developed in the county did not come without opposition, with several councillors expressing fears about its effect on other retailers.
Rioja Estates wants to create a 'Tourist Outlet Village' (TOV) close to the IDA industrial estate at Killacloyne, Carrigtwohill. The company says it will create 850 permanent jobs and a further 640 during construction.
Cllr Marcia D'Alton said she was concerned such a move was against the national planning framework and it would have a negative impact on retailing in Cork City and some of the towns and villages in the East Cork area.
“It will be detrimental to local businesses. I'm also deeply concerned that we haven't done a carbon impact assessment on the impact on this,” she said, adding the development is expected to result in 35,000 vehicles visits to it every week.
Cllr Alan O'Connor maintained the Rioja Estates plan “was textbook of unsustainable development,” and Cllr Holly Cairns said “it would take more footfall” away from other retailers.
Cllr Liam Quaide said he "didn't buy the argument" that the items for sale at the TOV would be significantly different from other shops in the area.
Cllr Gerard Murphy said the national planning framework was designed to counterbalance Dublin development and the Rioja project would help to do this.
Cllr Susan McCarthy maintained the development “would counter on-line traders” and it was “a type of niche shopping, which you're going to get in towns and villages”. She said she was worried if they turned it away it would go to Limerick, Waterford or Galway instead.
Cllr Anthony Barry said the economic benefits to the region would be huge as it would also attract a large number of tourists. He added he often went to Kildare village and saw the large number of Cork people who shopped there.
“There are pros and cons in this,” Cllr Seamus McGrath said. “If this type of centre is to proceed we want it to come with a clear, defined action plan for (retail development) towns and villages.” Cllr Michael Hegarty said it was important to send out the message that they want investment in the Cork region. “It would be absolutely crazy, horrendous if we vote this down,” he said.
“If we hold back on this it will go somewhere else,” Cllr Kevin Murphy said.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said he and his officials were “strongly of the view” there is retail capacity to accommodate such a centre “and it wouldn't have an adverse impact” on other retailers.
Mr Lucey said the council would be putting together an “action programme” to support retailers in towns and villages in the county.
The council's director of planning services, Michael Lynch, said 993,000 tourists came into the immediate area per year on cruise liners, or by car to visit the likes of Fota Wildlife Park Park, Cobh Heritage Centre and the Jameson distillery.
He said such a retail centre would encourage even more visits per year.
Following a lengthy debate, 42 councillors voted for the proposal with four against.