PLANNING PERMISSION has been granted for the largest shopping centre in the midwest.
The €350 million Opera Centre in Limerick city is expected to create over 300 jobs during the construction phase and a further 800 jobs when completed.
The 38,500sq m facility will consist of two anchor units and 38 other retail units, as well as a basement car park with 505 spaces.
Construction is expected to take over two years to complete, but a start date for the massive project will be subject to approval from An Bord Pleanála.
Limerick City Council confirmed yesterday that planning permission had been granted for the multimillion euro development.
The local authority has already acquired a large number of plots of land and properties in Limerick city in order to pave the way for the construction of the centre, which was first mooted in 2005.
New plans lodged last May incorporate six additional buildings, including the Granary and the old Town Hall which are protected structures and are to be preserved.
The approved plans will also preserve the original home on Patrick Street of Limerick-born soprano Catherine Hayes, which will be refurbished and handed back to Limerick Civic Trust.
Mayor of Limerick John Gilligan said it was a vote of confidence in Limerick city but warned that was just the beginning of the process.
"I'm delighted, particularly with the news that so many jobs will be created, jobs which will be high quality and sustainable in the long term," he said. "However, this is not the end of the process. I hope there will be discussions with the sitting tenants who will be affected by this development and we can do everything we can to facilitate them," he said.
Pat Keogh, the project manager for Regeneration Developments Ltd, said he welcomed Limerick City Council's decision to grant planning permission, adding that the company was still considering the conditions the council had attached before making any further comment.
An Bord Pleanála meanwhile is due to rule later this month on an objection to a compulsory purchase order by Limerick City Council of a small plot of land needed to facilitate the development.
The local authority wants to gain title to Bank Place, which is less than 100sq m in size, but Trinity Rooms nightclub, which is located beside the site, has objected to the compulsory purchase order because it claims it will put the future of the nightclub at risk.
At a recent oral hearing, Limerick City Council senior planner Dick Tobin, admitted that revised plans for the Opera Centre development could put the nightclub's future in jeopardy.
However the local authority had to "weigh carefully the opportunity to create 1,000 jobs with the temporary displacement of 100 jobs at Trinity Rooms".
In a statement issued after the hearing, Pat Barry, managing director of Trinity Rooms, claimed this was "an appallingly cavalier attitude" to the jobs and livelihood of his workers.
The Irish Times