ONE of the Limerick’s biggest trade unions is backing the Horizon Mall project - despite the fact 60 businesses have objected to it.
It comes after the developer Suneil Sharma promised a training scheme for the unemployed.
SIPTU construction official Mark Quinn met Mr Sharma earlier this month, and has confirmed the union - which has up to 800 local members - is backing the €100m project.
Their intervention is notable, as traders and councillors line up against the mammoth Dublin Road development - which could see Limerick’s first Marks and Spencer.
Mr Quinn has secured a commitment from the developer that if the project goes ahead, local people will be employed in construction - unlike many capital schemes at present.
“We would totally support the project going ahead. We met with Suneil Sharma, and he has confirmed to us that he will create 1,500 construction jobs. We had an agreement that he will do everything in his power to ensure that whoever gets the principal contract, that union officials will have access to the site [to ensure locals are employed]” Mr Quinn said.
In an email to the union official, the Belfast-based developer wrote: “I would like to restate my intention to support an employment training scheme targeted at maximising local take-up of employment. This will have a particular focus on long-term unemployed.”
This, Mr Quinn says, would take the form of a ‘jobs club’.
Mr Sharma would pay to train new workers at Marks and Spencer in readiness for the British retailing giant’s potential opening here.
In the email, Mr Sharma says “there is no reason to believe” the reduced-scale development will not go ahead.
The proposed 63,712 square metre development has attracted objections from more than 60 businesses and individuals from people fearful of a further loss of trade to the suburbs.
But Mr Quinn says people need to have the choice of where they want to shop.
“Whether they shop in the city centre or not is not the issue. As far as the trade unions are concerned, where we can see a positive increase in local employment for the citizens of the city and county, this project should be a positive step in closing the gap with the rest of the country,” he said.
Mr Sharma has promised that the shopping centre proposal will deliver 1,500 construction jobs, and 500 permanent jobs.
Meanwhile, Mr Sharma has denied he has had any formal discussions on working on the Opera Centre site in the city centre.
However, he has met with Mayor Michael Sheahan on this matter, and mentioned that he could look to develop this site along the lines of the Limerick 2030 plan.
It could see a city centre third-level campus, and a new tax office.
This Wednesday, his involvement in the Patrick Street project would depend on the fortunes of the Horizon Mall project, formerly known as the Parkway Valley.
“Obviously I was involved in the Opera Centre some time ago, and would I go back to that? The answer is dependent on what happens in the coming weeks on the particular project we’re involved in now, which we know we can deliver,” he told the Limerick Leader.
Mr Sharma says he could start work on the Dublin Road project tomorrow if he chose to proceed with the terms of the 2009 planning permission he holds for a much larger-scale centre.
A decision is due on the revised plans later this month.