Afer several months of speculation this Wednesday (7/9/11) it was confirmed that Belfast developer Suneil Sharma has purchased the currently abandoned, half-built development that is Parkway Valley on the suburb of the City. Although nobody can deny that the development, in its current state is nothing short of a complete eyesore and blight on the landscape, the completion of this development will have serious negative consequences for Limerick City and ultimately the greater Limerick Region.

As a regional Chamber we welcome any announcement that will bring investment and jobs for Limerick and the region. The development, which will be the largest of its kind in Ireland in the foreseeable future, is recognition of the potential Limerick has a real counter-pole to Dublin. As the capital of the Mid-West region, our improved road infrastructure has put us at the heart of the Atlantic Corridor, opening us up to other Gateway cities such as Cork and Galway giving us a critical mass population of 1.2 million! No wonder Mr. Sharma see’s the commercial potential of Limerick sand specifically this development!!!

But we cannot but worry about the impact that this development will have on a city centre that is already under retail pressure suffering from years of over-development on the suburbs, creating what must be the largest donought effect in the country! The saturation of retail developments and shopping centres on the periphery of the city is a damnation on years of poor local governance – years of competition between neighbouring authorities – years of poor planning. A legacy which goes against all healthy city-region balances: strong regions have strong cities at their core. And this is what we need to not just acknowledge, but actively pursue!

And yes, now we have the template for a new governance model, but is it too late? By all accounts the permission for the development in Parkway Valley is a done deal.

I personally don’t want to give-in.  This announcement I believe creates the first real challenge for the new Limerick Local Governance Implementation Committee as chaired by Denis Brosnan. We have been told that the the new unified local authority will give us united joined-up thinking. I call on the Implementation  team to now demonstrate that joined-up thinking, to address this situation in the context of what is best for the City and the region, to re-affirm the position of the city centre as the centre for growth and development for the region. I shudder to think what will happen to our historic and great city if they don’t actively generate this agenda with immediate effect.