PLANNING permission to build a €100m shopping centre on the outskirts of Limerick city has been refused.
Belfast developer Suneil Sharma had sought to modify the plans to the partially built site, originally known as Parkway Valley and renamed as Horizon Mall, but has been turned down.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council confirmed that planning permission for the development had been refused, but offered no further comment.
The decision is believed to have been made on Friday, and was due to be communicated to Mr Sharma today.
The developer was not available for comment.
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Michael Sheahan, who met with Mr Sharma recently to discuss his plans for the site, which was to have Marks & Spencer as an anchor tenant, said it was “a relief in that it has been rejected, but at the same time we have to start rebuilding the city centre.
“There is no point stopping the outside bodies, if we don’t do something on the inside ourselves,” he said.
The Mayor claimed that Mr Sharma, who originally sought to develop the Opera Centre site, “doesn’t want to look at the city.
“He claims that M&S won’t come to the city because he is able to give them a deal on commercial rates, he can carry them for three or four years. Their bottom line for us is to hold us to ransom - they want the same package in the city centre.
“But to do that, how can you have other businesses paying commercial rates and they (M&S) not paying rates? You couldn’t have that, that is the problem. They will come in, but they will only come in at a price.”
Thirteen objections, representing more than 60 businesses in the city and surrounding areas, had been lodged against the plans. A variety of businesses, including pubs, hotels, other shopping centres, a museum, and even a hospital had objected to the plans, which sought to educe the size and scale of the original development from 73,142 square metres to 63,712 square meres, and also to reduce the height of the proposed shopping centre.
The current planning permission for the site lapses in 2016. Mr Sharma had claimed the proposal would bring 2,000 jobs to Limerick and warned that if the €100m plans were not accepted, the Dublin Road site could remain an eyesore for years to come.
Helen O’Donnell, chair of the city business association, welcomed the planning refusal.
“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.
“We are anxious that people don’t see this as a negative in terms of investment in Limerick, but we want and need investment in the city and we need people with deep pockets, be they developers or investors, to look at Limerick city as a serious space to invest.
“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.