Tuesday 14 April 2015

A Blot on the Horizon; 

valley of the Malls

Horizon Mall Site 2014. Image taken by photographer Patrick Edmund Lynch patricklynch.ie
Sometimes an image really does make a point better than a thousand words. This week's papers are full of outrage at the decision for the €100 million Horizon Mall (formerly the Parkway Valley) development on the Dublin Road. Back in 2008 the flock of cranes on the site became just another part of my daily view on route to the university campus where I was doing my MA at the time. It's amazing how the human brain gets used to looking at the ugly beginnings of shopping mall mediocrity. According to the 2011 Census Limerick is Ireland's third largest city with a population of 102, 161. However does a population of this size justify so many shopping outlets all seemingly touting the same things? On the 18th of March Limerick City & County Council published the Draft Corporate Plan 2015-19 stating that Retail provides 15.3% of employment and that 'Limerick city is the most deprived of the five cities in the State' according to 2011 Census Draft Report for Corporate Plan 2015-19
I ask that people please don't point the finger at the Horizon monster for the death of Limerick's city centre. It's slow decline goes right back to having two separate local authorities, no diversification of the city's housing stock as 41% made up of local authority housing estates, increase in private vehicle ownership and the scramble for entry into Limerick's secondary schools leaves parents couriering their children miles each day. Limerick city 'worked' when it was a walkable city. If you want a vibrant, living city centre again people must be in the city. 
An Bord Pleanála are usually so reliable to be the voice of reason to the detriment of developers but why not in this case? Soon the poor residents of Singland will be living in a Shopping City spending hours stuck in traffic, slowly being sucked into the tornado that is the Parkway Roundabout, jostling with students and staff eking their way out to the University of Limerick. National Technological Park. What kind of standard of living is that? Congestion, road rage, stress. No wonder such a high proportion of Irish people listen to the radio. Stuck in your car what else are you going to do? 
Here is a listing of the Parks (a term for these stores which I find hilarious as they are completely devoid of any landscaping or greenery). Please forgive the inclusion of any stores that have since closed down as I am working from internet listings. I try to personally avoid these places are they are akin to Blake's circles of Hell. Horizon Mall will be this area's Cerberus. 
Courtesy of Google Maps
A= oldest site, the Parkway Shopping Centre which is probably still viable thanks to Dunnes Stores with amongst others, Easons Books, O'Briens Fine Wines, Xtravision, Claire's Accessories, Llyod's Pharmacy, Café Cupcake, Euro Giant, Carphone Warehouse
B= Parkway Retail Park (TKMaxx, Currys, Homebase, Elverys, Carpet Right)
C= Childers Road Retail Park (another Dunnes Stores, Next, Burton, Wallis, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Heatons, Argos, Maplin, Boots, KFC, Costa, Pizza Hut, Smyths Toystore, Harry Corry and Lifestyle Sports). 
D= Horizon Mall site. As you can see on Google maps this looks like the last vestiges of a war zone. We are told will have its anchor Marks & Spencers with its 100,000 sq ft store but what else? Will it not just be a duplication of all the British and American chains we already possess in these parks not to mention the Crescent Shopping centre? 

Aerial view of Childers Road Retail Park. Image taken from childersroad.ie
There is in fact a Mid West Retail Strategy 2008-2016 devised by MWASP, the Mid West Regional Authority (Clare County Council, Limerick City & County Council and North Tipperary County Council). Their office is in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary so maybe if they had to wade through the traffic in this area there would be solutions found. The overall aim of MWASP incorporating the "Planning, Land Use & Transportation Strategy" is to provide a framework to help guide decision making with regard to the physical and spatial development of the region into 2030 and to promote balanced growth throughout the region to achieve the maximum social, economic, health and cultural benefits for all its citizens. 
MWASP doesn't have much of a sting in its tail if it can't stop developments working against their brief. 

This writer asks not to place all the blame on the existence of Horizon. There are bigger issues and past decisions to account for this. Horizon Mall is but a symptom. It should be left as a monument to greed. 

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