Thursday 23 April 2009

Anger as €100m shopping centre plans vetoed

A €100 MILLION shopping centre which had the backing of several thousand people in the north Cork area has been refused.

The proposed Shipton Group complex for Fermoy would have created hundred of jobs, it was claimed.

Anger is mounting locally over the An Bord Pleanála decision to turn down the scheme. The developers had, in recent years, created the highly successful Blackpool Shopping Centre in Cork city. Shipton Group had sought permission to build a massive retail, office and apartment complex on the site of the former mart in Fermoy.

An Bord Pleanála refused the largest project ever earmarked for the town, believing it would be detrimental to the core town centre trading. The board said, if approved, the development would result in a huge increase in Fermoy’s retail capacity which would be out of scale with other towns of a similar size.

The board also said the height, scale and layout of the project would be "visually incongruous" and would adversely affect the adjoining architectural conservation areas and the setting of protected structures at Lisieux Villas and O’Rahilly Row.

In the report published yesterday, it was also pointed out the development was proposed for an area at risk of flooding. Planners stated that the project could actually exacerbate the effects of flooding in an area adjacent to the River Blackwater.

The initial planning application was turned down by Fermoy Town Council last year. But such was the local dismay that town mayor Cllr Tadhg O’Donovan helped to raise a petition supporting the development and more than 3,000 people signed it which was submitted to the board when the Shipton Group lodged its appeal.

Fermoy town councillor Seamus Coleman said he was bitterly disappointed with the decision. "I don’t accept that Fermoy would have too many retail units if the development was allowed to proceed. This would have created badly-needed new jobs, not just in the town, but in the area as a whole. Fermoy and Mitchelstown have both suffered in recent years from hundreds of job losses," the Sinn Féin councillor said.

Mr Coleman said many Fermoy people went shopping in Midleton, Mallow and Mahon Point simply because they didn’t have the variety of outlets available in other towns.

Deputy Seán Sherlock also criticised the decision. "This is a crazy decision... There has to be an immediate return to the drawing board on these plans, which must be facilitated in one way or another. Fermoy can’t afford to lose out on this opportunity," the Labour TD said.

A spokesman for the Shipton Group said it was surprised and disappointed.

Iris Examiner

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