Gormley move puts 800 jobs in jeopardy
Environment minister orders halt to e175m retail centre for capital
Published 07/03/2010 | 05:00
Environment Minister John Gormley has this weekend personally put 800 jobs in jeopardy after he ordered a halt to the building of a major €175m retail centre in south Dublin, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
In an unprecedented move, the new 25,000sq ft development at Carrickmines District Centre, which was twice approved by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, has been halted by Mr Gormley, who said it was not in line with proper planning standards.
In a letter to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Manager Owen Keegan on Friday, obtained by the Sunday Independent, Mr Gormley said he was taking the decision following failures by the council to address his concerns over the size of the project.
Mr Gormley's intervention is coming despite council approval and no local objections to the development.
Members of the county council voted in support of the project in March last year and again in November, following the local elections at which all three Green councillors lost their seats.
In the letter, Mr Gormley said: "It is disappointing that the elected members of your authority wish to ignore the recommendations of the strategy less than a year after it was endorsed by them. This [project] would be to the detriment to the region as a whole."
He continued: "My direction requires the council to delete the designation of Carrickmines as a retail centre and this direction should be implemented immediately."
Mr Gormley's letter was sent only days before the go-ahead for the centre, which was to be adopted in the draft county plan this Wednesday.
The Sunday Independent understands that Mr Keegan is seeking legal advice on how to respond to Mr Gormley's intervention.
Councillor Jim O'Leary said that Mr Gormley was now nothing more than a joke and that his decision to stop a major employment boost for the region was outrageous.
"This minister is a total joke. 800 full-time jobs, 700 construction jobs and 1,500 part-time jobs are being sacrificed here. It's disgraceful."
Gerry Horkan, a leading FF council member, is calling on Mr Gormley to reverse his decision, saying that the county, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, can't afford to let this project go. "This would be a major jobs boost for an area which has seen its unemployment rate soar . . . There is no reason for this intervention, and it is out of order given this council and the previous council approved it," said Mr Horkan.
This revelation will be a further embarrassment for the Government, coming three weeks after this newspaper revealed how Mary Coughlan had refused to deal with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary over the saving of 300 jobs at Dublin Airport.
Park Developments, the company behind the development, said they were shocked by Mr Gormley's decision, saying it was undemocratic.
A spokesman for Tristor Ltd, an associated company of Park Developments, said: "We are shocked and extremely concerned by the unique and unprecedented intervention in the democratic process in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown by the minister."
Mr Tim Crowley, Director with Tristor, which is also behind the development, said: "We call on Minister Gormley to reverse his instruction and not to undermine the 800-job scheme and we are seeking an urgent meeting with the minister.
"This would have been the first district centre in the county for some 25 years."
He continued: "One of the only groups who expressed their opposition were Green Party representatives, who indicated that they had their ideological concerns about the proposal."
Yesterday, Mr Gormley's spokesman refuted the claim that he opposed this development on ideological grounds, but said that it was done because it contravened good and proper planning standards.
When asked about the potential loss of jobs, the spokesman said: "This is not about jobs, this is about proper planning.
"This economic downturn is as a result of a legacy of poor planning around the country. The council signed up to the sustainable planning framework, yet their councillors wanted to ignore that. That is why the minister intervened," the spokesman added.