Limerick County Council has been urged to buy the site of the former Andersen plant in Rathkeale amid fears that it could be left to lie idle or even used as a halting site.
A meeting in the town in recent weeks heard concern being expressed that the plant could share the fate of the former GVM mart which was bought by a solicitor on behalf of a number of local families and has since lain idle.
One person who attended that meeting said that the experience with the mart has left many people worried that the same could happen to the Andersen plant, particularly if it was bought by local Traveller families.
“The experience from that is that [Travellers] buy up anything that is for sale in Rathkeale and the fear is that it could be used as a halting site,” he said.
However, Community Council chairman Podge Doherty said that they don’t mind who buys the site so long as it is put to use to generate employment in the town.
“We have seen in the past where premises come up for sale in prime locations and they have been left to go derelict. We have asked the council to step in and we would hope that it would be used for industry rather than be let to go derelict,” he said.
He added: “We don’t mind who buys it but we don’t want to see it left empty.”
The Andersen costume jewellery manufacturing facility closed last September with the loss of 169 jobs. The 115,000 square foot factory, located on a 7.25 acre site, went on sale earlier this month on the instruction of the liquidator. Since then, there has been “reasonable enough” interest in the site, according to a representative of DTZ Sherry Fitzgerald, the agents for the sale.
“Enquiry levels have been good compared to what we thought it would be,” she added, pointing out that the facility was “very specialised” and that their focus was on matching “the right party with the building”. In addition to the factory, there are 235 car parking spaces and a number of landscaped areas. The asking price for the property is €1.2m.
The factory has been stripped out and the contents were sold at auction last month.
There is concern in the town that the property could be left in the same condition as the former GVM mart premises on New Line, part of which was sold in 2010, reportedly to members of the local Travelling community. Since then, the site has lain idle but there have been incidents where caravans have been parked there illegally.
The future of the Andersen site is complicated by the fact that it is located in a flood zone under the Rathkeale Local Area Plan. This means that, while a new occupier moving into the existing buildings would not require planning permission, there may be a requirement to do so if they planned to extend or sub-divide the property.