The Irish Times - Saturday, February 6, 2010

State cannot deliver €1.7bn for Limerick regeneration - O'Dea

JAMIE SMYTH, Social Affairs Correspondent

THE GOVERNMENT will not be able to deliver the €1.7 billion it promised for the regeneration of Limerick, Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea has said.

The Government announced its €3 billion regeneration plan for Limerick in 2007. It had planned to invest €1.7 billion between 2009 and 2018, with private investors investing the rest.

The State agency tasked with developing the project, Limerick Regeneration, held talks with officials at the Department of Environment this week aimed at agreeing incentive schemes to attract private investment.

Brendan Kenny, chief executive of Limerick Regeneration, said tax breaks for developers were under consideration, although these may require EU approval. Another possibility was for private investors to build social housing, which could then be leased back to the State.

However, he said the reality was it would be very difficult to attract private-sector investment.

Mr O’Dea, who is a local TD, warned yesterday that there was growing public “disenchantment” in Limerick due to the lack of progress on the project.

“Rather than let the thing grind to a halt because we can’t afford to put more than €25 million in in a year, let’s attract money in from the private sector and see some action,” said Mr O’Dea, who added he had been approached by investors eager to get involved.

“I can’t give their identity, but they are local builders, people who have been involved in the building trade for a long time . . . they are solid guys,” said Mr O’Dea, who estimated they had “a couple of hundred million euro” to invest.

The master plan aims to regenerate four estates – Moyross, Ballinacurra Weston, Southill and St Mary’s Park. It envisages demolishing up to 2,500 houses, creating two new town centres and breaking the “cycle of disadvantage” in the city.

Mr Kenny said the regeneration project would now be delayed and may not be completed for 15 years due to funding problems.

Limerick Regeneration will put forward new proposals to Government next month aimed at starting a building programme to reassure local people the regeneration will go ahead. However, significant changes are expected to the original plan, with more houses on the estates being refurbished rather than demolished and rebuilt.

Mr Kenny said his big fear was that good families would leave the estates if there was a long delay in redevelopment.

“Three hundred houses are gone from Moyross and we are losing the best families, the ones we want to be in the new communities,” he said.

Irish Times Article