“WHEN will we see keys in front doors?”
This was the question put to the Land Development Agency (LDA) during a presentation on the Colbert Quarter at last Monday’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council.
Plans to open up significant parts of the Colbert Quarter and create a vibrant new mixed-use quarter and gateway to the city were outlined to council members.
These ambitious plans for Limerick’s newest city quarter include the potential to deliver 2,800 new mixed-tenure homes with a focus on affordable housing and landmark office and commercial space alongside improved opportunities for health, education, and employment.
It will be set in a highly connected series of parklands and open spaces with enhanced green areas and a new high quality public realm.
The proposed public realm will comprise a network of links and proposals for a new community-focussed sporting hub to provide enhanced opportunities for recreational activities that meets the needs of both the existing and future residents of the area.
Councillors were told that the LDA also plans on opening a Limerick office in the near future to work on the ground in delivering what it considers a “complex site”, earmarked for completion in 2028.
But as impressive as it all sounds, councillors appeared increasingly frustrated and impatient with the need for progress on the ambitious project.
“They are great ideas, great plans,” Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin told the LDA Head of Strategic Planning Dearbhla Lawson.
“The LDA is fine in one sense. It has great plans to build and the plans look fantastic until we get to the planning process and the can is kicked down the road.
“It doesn’t exactly do as it says on the tin,” he said.
Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely told the LDA that she expected more details than they were given. She wanted to know when families could expect to be in their homes in this new city development.
Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin pointed out that we are in the middle of a housing crisis, before calling for the fast-tracking of building homes for people.
“The planning system is not fit for purpose. We have enough land, we just need to expedite some of these applications. We need to see action,” Cllr Leddin insisted.
His Labour Party colleague Conor Sheehan also called for reform in the planning process.
“My biggest concern is this development will be kicked down the road by An Bord Pleanála.”
Cllr Dan McSweeney (FG) called for some realism.
“I am sure we will get a big day out when you open your Limerick office. But we want keys in doors, that’s all we want.
“We will be having a very serious conversation if you can’t deliver,” he said.
Cllr Stephen Keary (FG) suggested that the LDA have an open cheque book to do what they like and raised concerns they would be building a “box of slums”.
The LDA team reassured council members that they wanted Colbert Quarter to be a successful and vibrant community.
The Council’s Director of Economic Development Vincent Murray said that the local authority was committed to working with the LDA.
“We are at the mercy of the planning process but we will find the most expeditious route,” he added.