Plans for a €100m Kildare Village-style retail centre in Co Cork have been given a major boost after the planning minister sided against objections to the development from the Office of the Planning Regulator.
The OPR had previously instructed Cork County Council not to allow British-based Rioja Estates to develop the centre in Carrigtwohill.
However, the council took two successful cases to the High Court which ruled it had acted properly in agreeing in principle to the proposed development.
Local Government and Planning Minister Peter Burke has, for what is believed to be the first time, sided against the OPR objections to the local authority-backed development. He recognised the High Court rulings which upheld that Cork County Council made its decision on the project in line with all national retail planning guidelines.
The OPR had also ordered the county council not to proceed with such developments until it had completed a joint retail study with Cork City Council. This order has also been rescinded by Mr Burke.
Sources in Cork's County Hall say the “very significant decision” communicated to the local authority by Mr Burke “is likely to initiate re-interest [by the developers]” in the proposed Carrigtwohill project.
“It will reopen the way for the developer to re-engage with the [council’s] planning department,” one source said.
The council had earmarked land for the retail development adjacent to the N25 Cork–Waterford road on the eastern side of Carrigtwohill.
However, if the developers do re-engage and seek to make a formal planning application, county councillors will have to rezone it for retail use.
This, though, is expected to be a formality as the vast majority of the council’s 55 elected representatives have repeatedly said they are in favour of it.
Rioja Estates, which has a long track record of developing retail parks in Britain, maintains that the Carrigtwohill centre will create 800 jobs.
While Cork city-based business interests have expressed fears over such a development impacting retailers, county councillors say the Carrigtwohill development will have a hugely positive financial impact on the whole Cork region.
They say people from the Cork region will no longer have to travel to the Kildare Village centre for bargains, with their money instead remaining in the local economy.
Meanwhile, Mr Burke has backed the OPR’s view that four other planning proposals made by the council should not proceed in Carrigtwohill, Bantry, and Fermoy.
He has directed the council not to include them in the County Development Plan (2022–2028). This has angered several councillors, who say the OPR is interfering and “micromanaging” the affairs of local authorities.