THE leader of Limerick City and County Council and the mayor offered differing reactions to the news that the €100m Horizon Mall development had fallen at the first hurdle.
Mayor Michael Sheahan said there is “a strong sense of relief” that local planners had refused the permission to develop on the Dublin Road site - but urged action on the Limerick 2030 renewal plan.
Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan said however that in refusing permission, the needs of the county were not being served. The mall was turned down by planners this week, with its potential impact on the centre the prime reason.
But Cllr Kevin Sheahan said: “We cannot build everything in O’Connell Street. We need to branch out.”
“As councillors in the county chamber, there was a responsibility on us going into this single authority to protect the best interests of the county, the people and the areas we represent, while at the same time acknowledging that Limerick City has to be a strong, commercial hub,” he said.
The Askeaton-based councillor said rather than refuse outlying developments, “we need to come together and put in place a serious structure to give Limerick what it badly requires”.
One such structure is the Limerick 2030 plan, which envisages a facelift to seven distinct areas of the city centre, including the knocking of the tax office, and a redevelopment of the Patrick Street site.
Mayor Michael Sheahan said: “If we are going to be rejecting developments out there, we have to accelerate the 2030 plan here in the city. We can’t keep saying no to developments on the perimeter if we do not activate some sort of economic activity here in the city centre.”
The local business community welcomed the refusal.
Some 13 objections, representing over 60 city centre traders had been lodged.
Business association chair Helen O’Donnell said: “We are very happy because we fought a tough battle and produced a very significant and accurate report and put up a very good argument (against the development).”
She said now is the time for “people with deep pockets, be they developers or investors” to come and look at Limerick city centre.
“We believed that this would have completed what we call the ‘doughnut or out of town dam effect’. We need some of these shops that were mentioned in the city, but we don’t want them on the outskirts of the city, it just doesn’t work in our opinion,” she added.
If an appeal by developer Suneil Sharma goes to An Bord Pleanala, Ms O’Donnell said the business association would produce a similar submission to the national appeals body.
Chamber CEO Maria Kelly added: “We must learn from the mistakes of the past. Strong cities drive strong regions, and we have to make sure our planning process fits in with that, and this decision shows that finally it does.”