A MOTION has been passed by Limerick City Council placing the stalled €300 million Opera Centre development onto the derelict sites register, a legal move that is expected to force some action on the massive 38,000 square metre site.
The motion, calling on city council to “act immediately in the interest of public health and safety to issue a derelict site notice on the owners of the site” was put forward by Cllr Kevin Kiely, and was passed at a meeting of city council this Tuesday.
The move comes after several weeks of controversy, first raised when the neighbouring Trinity Rooms nightclub voluntarily closed, citing a “health and safety concern arising from a derelict site adjacent to our operation”, understood to be the Opera Centre, which was causing a infestation of rats in the club.
The site has been in limbo for some four years since it was first mooted as a flagship development for the city centre, encompassing more than 40 individual properties, which have now fallen into disrepair. Council officials have repeatedly stressed that there are adequate rodent control measures on the site, but Trinity Rooms, who were served with an official closure notice by the HSE, last week disposed of €40,000 worth of stock as a precaution against the spread of infection as a result of the infestation in their premises.
After several city councillors demanded immediate action on the site, the motion to place the site on the derelict sites register was proposed and seconded. Responding, city manager Tom Mackey told the meeting that he shared “all the members frustrations over the Opera Centre”.
“We all had high hopes for that site. If it had come on stream a few years ago, it would have been off the ground sooner. Unfortunately when planning permission was given, the steam had been lost from the Celtic Tiger.”
“We have held meetings with the developer and the HSE to ensure the control of rodents is in order, and we are told they are. We have explored all options available to us. There is no lack of effort from us in chasing what we want to see on that site. But it is the developer’s site - not ours.”
He added: “We cannot ensure a developer builds. We have had ongoing discussions with the developer, but when businesses are involved in NAMA, the ability to build is d iminished.
“I have spoken to people in NAMA who have come to Limerick. They accept our argument. They have reassured me they will not stand in the way of a viable economic use of the site. There is definitely a willingness on behalf of NAMA and the developer.”
Once described as “Limerick’s shopping Mecca”, the project, backed by Dublin-based Regeneration Developments, has been in the pipeline for five years but is now believed to come under the remit of the National Asset Management Agency. Anglo Irish Bank have a stake in the project, and the developers were also clients of Anglo.