WHITE smoke from the protracted legal saga surrounding the €100 million Ferrybank Shopping Centre will soon be seen, South Kilkenny Councillors were informed this morning. Speaking at the Piltown Municipal District’s January meeting, Kilkenny County Council Economic Director of Services Sean McKeown referred to the dispute between NAMA and Dunnes Stores – who were to be the centre’s original anchor tenant.
“Our understanding is that that case was due for mention in the High Court last December but as (Cllr) Ger Frisby (FF) has mentioned there, the case on December 3 was deferred,” he stated.
“It’s important to re-iterate that Kilkenny County Council are not a party in the proceedings and we’ve no role in the case but we do understand that there is ongoing positive engagement between both parties to resolve the dispute. And our understanding is that it’s near resolution and is likely to be resolved shortly; in fact, we believe, before the end of next month.”
Mr McKeown suggested to District Chair, Cllr Pat Dunphy (FG), that the Council Executive will “keep a watching brief on the case and as we learn more, I will update the members accordingly. It is a strategic building. Obviously, our own Area Offices and Library are the only two services currently being delivered from the centre – and while we’re not party to any of the proceedings and have no involvement in the case, obviously we’re anxious to have the building occupied so it is positive that there is constructive engagement going on and it appears to be coming near to a resolution so we will keep the elected members updated as we hear more.”
For the better part of a decade, the legal dispute between Dunnes and the Derry McPhillips-owned Deerland Construction (which transferred its loans for the centre to NAMA) had shown little sign of outward progress.
In the interim, during which the site has been regularly maintained, the 30,000 square metre building has stood largely idle, save for the Municipal District offices and the Ferrybank Library. Indeed, the library marked the ninth anniversary of its opening in the centre prior to Christmas.
In the Spring of 2018, Mr McKeown said a marketing plan for the centre has been developed by the IDA with a view to “promoting it for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) opportunities”.
A marketing budget was secured at that time to promote the facility to potential investors while floor space within the centre had also been rezoned “to make it more attractive to investors” according to Mr McKeown. These works mean that the centre will not be put to exclusive retail/shopping use once it finally opens.
Speaking at the time, Mr McKeown stated: “Our hope would be that a fairly significant employer is attracted in there which will fit the FDI space.”