LIMERICK City and County Council’s rejection of a multi-million euro expansion of a city suburb shopping centre and the creation of 100 new jobs are to be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.
And the people behind the proposal to develop Castletroy Town Centre claim that the only basis on which the council’s planners gave the permission the thumbs down is fundamentally flawed.
In an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, Robert Keran of Virtus project management, which is acting for UGP Castletroy Ltd, has accused the council of making a decision that “does not appear to have been founded on any empirical evidence base”.
The council planners turned down the application on the grounds that the expansion of the shopping centre would add to the so-called ‘donut effect’ of attracting business out of town and have a negative impact on trade in the city centre.
The appeal states that in making their decision, the city and county planning department was relying on out-of-date regulations that put a cap on the size of such projects.
No such cap is imposed in the most recent regulations, drawn up in 2012, the appeal states.
The projections were for up to 100 jobs at 17 new units including ten small outlets, four service units and a cafe on a new storey at the centre, as well as additional care-parking space.
The appeal pours cold water on possible speculation that a major player such as Marks and Spencer might move in, citing the smaller size of the proposed shops as being more suited to independent, boutique-style traders.
The appeal also points to the growing residential, student and local employment figures which put the projected population, including all three categories at 40,900 by 2022.
The figures include 12,900 students and staff at University of Limerick and 4,000 employees of the National Technological Park, including employees of Troy Studios.
The development of the shopping centre, Mr Keran said, is “not designed to be of a scale to support or attract national or international retailers which are being targeted by the city centre or higher tiered retail centres.
“There is no assessment by the council of the positive impact that the proposed development would have in terms of providing services and facilities to serve the Castletroy catchment,” the appeal document states.
There were a number of objections lodged to the original application, including one from Limerick Chamber chief executive Dee Ryan.
In a submission to the council, she stated: “The Chamber contends that investment in city centre redevelopment is required as a matter of urgency, to attract new retailers to our city hub as their primary initial location choice in the region.”