A Bord Pleanála inspector has warned that the Ikea outlet planned for Ballymun in Dublin could become a "white elephant" that would lie idle for a year or more pending the M50's upgrade.
Keith Sargeant, who conducted the week-long planning appeal hearing on the proposed development, was referring to a condition in the planning permission granted by Fingal County Council which prevents Ikea from opening before the motorway capacity is increased.
The council's condition states the M50 upgrade at the Ballymun interchange junction, or works that would produce equivalent improvements, must be completed before Ikea can open.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has said that the upgrade will not be completed until 2009 and that any change to the "highly complex contract" with the contractors building the road that would allow alternative work at the junction would be very unlikely. If planning permission was granted for the development it would be ready to open by August 2008, Ikea has said.
Mr Sargeant said: "Ikea could spend a fortune getting a store ready to open and could be left sitting with a white elephant ... I'm not worried about Ikea's financial situation but I do want people to face up to reality," Mr Sargeant said. The council had not made it clear who would be responsible for the improvement works.
Seán McGrath, a senior council engineer, said it had allowed a "degree of flexibility" when writing the condition, so Ikea could negotiate with the motorway contractor for completion of the improvement works.
Hugh Creegan of the NRA, which opposes the proposed Ikea siting, said the NRA awarded the works contract and he did not see how changes could be made.
The hearing concluded yesterday. An Bord Pleanála is likely to deliver its decision by July.
© 2007 The Irish Times