Tuesday 26 September 2017

Foreign firms 'snubbing Ireland due to lack of office space'

Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA
Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA

Paul O'Donoghue and Peter Flanagan

Dublin has lost out on two foreign direct investment projects in recent times because of a lack of office space, it has been claimed.

John Moran, who leads the Irish arm of property broker JLL, told a Dublin Chamber of Commerce briefing that two companies who had looked at Ireland for investment switched to other countries due in part to the cost and shortage of office space here.

An IDA spokesman, however, said foreign firms continue to find space here.

And earlier this year, IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan insisted lack of 'grade A' office space was not stunting development.

Meanwhile, Cork risks missing out on up to 1,000 jobs after a planning application for the first building at the proposed Cork Science Park was turned down.

The park has been in the works since 2009 and is earmarked for a 100-hectare site outside the city in the hope that it will become a cluster of businesses working with local colleges UCC and CIT.

The park could provide 1,000 jobs for the area and a €35m-a-year boost to the local economy within the next five to ten years.

The masterplan for the project estimates that, in an ideal situation where the majority of the space is developed, the park could cater for more than 17,000 students and employees over a period of about 25 years.

Local company Soltaz Ltd was to develop the first building at the site, a 17,000 sq m office block that would have provided more than 500 jobs, at the former FAI grounds in Curraheen.

However, it was refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanala, which said it did not comply with the masterplan for development. The masterplan was drawn up by Cork County Council in 2011.

Application

The council supported the Soltaz proposal after previously rejecting the initial application over "mobility concerns".

An Bord Pleanala said the development "by reason of the quantum of floor space proposed and lack of clarity in respect of the nature of the proposed uses, would not comply with the framework masterplan".

The masterplan states buildings in the park should primarily be used for manufacturing, service or production activities related to technology, postgraduate or training activities linked to third-level institutions, research activities that are "technologically innovative or involve experimentation", or activity that directly supports existing or planned developments.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Soltaz developer Tom McCarthy said he understood the proposed building was in compliance with the plan, adding that requirements for developments to fit with the masterplan are too vague.

"Dublin and Belfast are now attracting substantial science and innovation investment and jobs [but] Cork's efforts are stymied by a restrictive masterplan which has failed to deliver any development since its adoption in 2011," he said.

"What is needed is clarity. For example, in the Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast, if a business devotes 25pc of floor space to R&D they can locate there and develop the mixed-function buildings they want. That is a clear and simple rule."

"Unless [the plan is revised] immediately, the science park will remain a plan with little prospect of ever being built," he said. A spokesman for the Cork County Council said it is not expected that An Bord Pleanala's decision will impact on other proposed projects within the park.

A spokesman for An Bord Pleanala declined to comment on the specific case.

Irish Independent

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