SLIGO Borough Council could opt to reject proposals for the biggest mixed use development ever planned for the town, even though the authority only last month gave the green light to the project. Under the terms of an agreement reached between the council and developers Treasury Holdings, either side could opt to withdraw support for the 70m project now that an agreed deadline for the commencement of construction has expired without the project getting underway. Callside Developments, a subsidiary of Treasury, is planning to build 42 apartments in two eight/nine storey blocks, 14 retail/commercial units with 65,000sq ft of floor space and a multistorey car park with over 400 spaces at Wine Street in the town centre. However, four objections to the proposed development have now been lodged with An Bord Pleanala, further delaying a project which has already been five years in the planning. The council has now been in touch with legal advisers to consider all aspects of what it says is a 'difficult and complex' situation, including the option of rescinding the contract.
"The agreement that Treasury and the borough council entered into was that in the event of the developers not having full planning permission by the end of 2007 then either party could make the agreement null and void, " says deputy lord mayor, independent councillor, Declan Bree. "Essentially, the council and the county manager are in a position to either start the process over again, or go back and renegotiate with Treasury. You could say the ball is at the county manager's foot, so to speak. Probably they could go back to the developers and say we will work with you, but we want commitments in terms of a timescale for the project to proceed."
Traders are concerned that any further delays to the project will intensify pressure on councillors to change the local area plan to allow for edge of town retail development. People in Sligo are concerned that the chronic issue of town centre parking will be further exacerbated when construction work does finally start on the site which is centred on Wine Street, Adelaide Street, John Street and O'Connell Street. "Right across the spectrum there is a lot of anger over all of this, " Bree says. "This is a key project. Everyone knows the degree of disruption it will cause. But at the end of the day it will be worth it. And now is the time to do it."
"Parking is the most serious issue we face in Sligo, " says Fine Gael county councillor Imelda Henry. "My definite concern would be that when work does eventually start on this development the town will be in complete chaos. I have no doubt about that. It's going to be a mess.
Even as things stand, I know of people from the town who drive to Carrick on Shannon on Sunday to do their weekly shopping. There's ample parking and it's free. That is a very worrying situation."
"There's no question of anyone walking away from the Sligo plan . . . I can guarantee that, " says Niall Kavanagh, Treasury Holdings senior development manager for the project.
"Four appeals have been lodged with the planning board. We have to work through that and allay the fears and concerns people have. We accept that the issue of temporary car parking is a concern for most people. During construction we intend retaining 125 of the existing 420 spaces. There's a site across the road owned by the National Building Agency.
We're putting 85 spaces there.
"We're also applying for a temporary 300 space car park on a site that's a 10minute walk away. The Swan Hotel will be making its 200 space car park available to retailers during the day.
There are a lot of options there and I think it will work well.
"If I can get the appeals withdrawn, I think we can have the 920-space car park planned by Dunnes Stores and ourselves in place by Christmas 2009. That is key to the project. It's what the retail environment has to have."