THE opening of the state's first Ikea store could be held up for a year due to delays in the upgrade of the M50 motorway.
Under the Swedish store's planning conditions, it cannot be opened on the outskirts of Ballymun in Dublin until a crucial interchange is completed by the contractors working for the National Roads Authority.
The head of Ballymun Regeneration Limited, Ciaran Murray admitted yesterday that the opening of the €100m flatpack furniture store could be pushed from January 2009 to January 2010 as a result.
"There is certainly a concern there could be a significant time delay," he said.
An Bord Pleanala has insisted on the necessity of the Ballymun interchange upgrade due to fears that the huge traffic levels to Ikea -- 2.8m shoppers or 400 an hour -- could overwhelm the already gridlocked M50.
Mr Murray told the Dail's Public Accounts committee that Ikea had been lobbying the NRA to get the upgrade completed as quickly as possible.
The NRA had explained this would incur "significant extra costs" from the contractor, SIAC-Ferrovial, which is only obliged to complete the upgrade by mid-2010, said Mr Murray.
"At the moment it really is in the hands of the contractors," he said.
The Ballymun interchange is due to be upgraded as part of major works being undertaken on the M50 to add an extra lane in each direction along the length of the ring-road.
Fine Gael committee chairman Bernard Allen said he wanted to see the opening of Ikea, with its promise of 500 jobs for the disadvantaged area of Ballymun, speeded up.
The company is setting up training programmes and is hoping to fill at least 250 of the jobs from the local area.
In its first year of operation, Ikea will also be forced to close its store during the annual pre-Christmas "Operation Freeflow" traffic programme in Dublin.
Mr Murray also defended the fact that the cost of the Ballymun regeneration project has doubled to €942m and is now set to be delivered six years late.
He said it had been affected by factors such as planning delays, lack of underground mapping and problems in moving the area's 17,000 people to new houses.
The Department of Environment secretary general Geraldine Tallon, said that lessons had been learned for future regeneration projects -- such as carrying out better cost planning and risk assessments.
Michael Brennan Political Correspondent