AN BORD Pleanála has refused permission for a €300 million shopping, business and residential development in the centre of Kilkenny city.
Developers had planned to build “Citymart”, a mix of 25 shops, restaurants, offices, cinema, medical centre, hotel, 54 apartments and 1,200 car-parking spaces on a “brownfield” 13-acre site which formerly housed the livestock mart. The mart relocated to a new site on the outskirts of Kilkenny in 2007.
The planning authority overruled its own inspector’s report, which had recommended approval, and refused permission for a project which it said “provides for a poor form of urban design for this important site”.
The board also stated that the proposal was “premature” given the inadequate roads infrastructure and that the new shopping centre would have a negative impact on the “vitality and viability” of existing shops in the city.
In a significant setback for the development of the site, which was scheduled to create hundreds of new jobs, the board concluded that the project would “require a complete redesign”.
The Mayor of Kilkenny, Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan, welcomed the decision and said the proposed shopping centre could have posed a significant threat to existing retailers. While accepting that the site would “eventually have to be developed”, he hoped it would be “a scaled-down development more in keeping with the future needs of Kilkenny”.
The project was envisaged as the second phase of a major urban regeneration programme involving an overall investment of €600 million. The first phase, MacDonagh Junction – a development of shops, offices and apartments built on a brownfield 10½-acre site beside Kilkenny railway station – opened two years ago although it still has vacant units.
However, the local authority in Kilkenny refused planning permission for Citymart, citing the “inadequacy of the existing roads infrastructure” to cope with the proposed development.
The county council said that while it was “in favour” of the project in principle, an inner relief road and a new bridge over the River Nore would be required before the development could proceed.
A spokesman said that “building a new road and bridge in the heart of medieval Kilkenny would be difficult given the city’s architectural and archaeological heritage”.
The developers appealed the council’s decision and it has taken the planning board two years to consider and refuse the appeal, which was lodged in November 2007. A spokesman said the long delay was due to the complexity of the case and a backlog of appeals.
Citymart is a joint venture between Kilkenny Livestock Market Ltd and Melcorpo Property Development Ltd. Reacting to the decision, managing director David Lyons said the company would “consult with its professional advisors” and “decide upon the means of proceeding with the development of the site in coming weeks”.
Citymart had reportedly been in talks with British retailers Tesco and Marks Spencer as potential tenants for “anchor stores”.
The decision means that Kilkenny is likely to remain the only county in Ireland without a branch of Tesco. The British multiple had planned to open a store in the town of Callan, but that plan was also rejected by An Bord Pleanála.