THE man behind the €100m Horizon Mall project on the outskirts of Limerick city will decide his next move in the coming week, after the proposals fell at the first hurdle.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader from London after local authority planners rejected his plans for a massive shopping centre on the Dublin Road, Suneil Sharma said: “Limerick seems to have the capacity for an opportunity lost, but that’s not my problem.”
The Belfast developer declined to comment further ahead of a meeting of his team in Dublin next week - but a full statement will be forthcoming then, he outlined.
A submission to An Bord Pleanala would be Mr Sharma’s next avenue to appeal, a move which must be made within a month.
Mr Sharma had sought to modify the plans to the partially built site, renamed Horizon Mall from its original Parkway Valley.
But planners said they considered the development would “materially contravene” the retail strategy for the Mid-West region, plus the current city and county development plans.
“Furthermore, it is considered the proposed stand-alone retail development would seriously injure the vitality and viability of Limerick city centre, and the existing district centres, and would seriously impact on the shopping role of these centres,” the council added.
Although the €100m plan could have seen Marks & Spencer open in Limerick, it divided opinion with many fearing trade in the city would be severely affected.
Mr Sharma still has permission in place until August 2016 to build a much larger shopping centre.
And council leader Kevin Sheahan says he “can start work tomorrow morning” on this if he wished.
The Parkway Valley was initially granted permission in the early 2000s when development plans allowed for large out-of-town shopping.
When he came to renew the plan in 2011, the former County Council sought legal advice before concluding it had no option but to allow it.
It is only because Mr Sharma is making substantial changes that the local authority could turn the plan down.
But one of the most prominent supporters of the Horizon Mall development, Cllr Sheahan added: “We cannot build everything in O’Connell Street: we need to branch out. I am pro-development, I am pro-job creation, and anything that delivers this.
“If a man knocked on my door with €100m to spend in my city or my county, I’d find it difficult to close the door in his face.”
Some 13 objections, representing over 60 city centre businesses had been lodged against the plans.
Business association chair Helen O’Donnell believes the promise of thousands of jobs would have seen “displacement” from the centre.
“We want investment in the city, but not at any cost. We felt the Horizon Mall was a cost too great for the city centre,” she said.