Sunday 11 November 2007

Mussel farm puts €350m Wexford scheme in doubt

The future of a €350 million waterfront development in Co Wexford is in doubt, after a decision by the government to allow a firm to cultivate mussels on a nearby seabed.

Deerland Construction, a Kilkenny development company, had obtained permission to build a two million square foot development in Wexford town that would include a hotel, shopping centre, offices and leisure facilities. The scheme would ultimately employ more than 2,000 people.

However, the company believes that a decision by the Department of Marine to grant the Lett Group, one of the largest suppliers of mussels in the country, an aquaculture licence for the nearby harbour has thrown the scheme into jeopardy. The company appealed the decision to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB), the state appeals body for aquaculture licences.

However, the appeal was thrown out. Deerland has now initiated High Court proceedings in an effort to overturn the decision.

The company is seeking judicial review, claiming that it had already secured planning permission for the €350 million development. In order to build the development, Deerland needs to reclaim land from the harbour, and the company believes the aquaculture licence would prevent this from happening.

The company is taking the judicial review against the ALAB. Conleth Bradley, chairman of the board, said he could not comment on the case, while several other members of the board also declined to comment.

A spokesman for Deerland said it was unable to comment as the case was before the courts.

Around 600 people are expected to be employed on the construction phase of the Wexford project, while 2,000 people will be employed when the centre opens. Deerland Construction is headed by Derry McPhillips, and has been behind other town centre and retail projects in Waterford, Kilkenny, Mullingar and Dundalk.

Sunday Business Post

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