A PROPOSAL TO develop over 100 houses on the site of a historic racecourse in Limerick look set to be scuppered after falling foul of planning authorities.
The Limerick Racecourse Company applied for planning permission to build the homes at the former Greenpark racecourse, which in its prime was visited by high-profile figures such as Pope John Paul II and former US president John F. Kennedy.
The project would have consisted of 110 housing units, made up of a mix of four-bed, three-bed and terraced houses, being built on the site of the old track, which closed in 1999 after 130 years of racing.
The project was already rejected by Limerick County Council in December, however the would-be developer appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála. The Limerick Racecourse Company owns the 100 acre site less than 3km to the southwest of the city centre.
The council said that without a masterplan for the entire Greenpark racecourse site the proposed development “would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
The planning authority upheld the council’s decision, adding that the plans for the project would cause a traffic hazard and “endanger public safety (and) would cause serious traffic congestion”.
The project is just one in a series of the company’s planned – and to date fruitless – developments at its Greenpark site.
The racecourse firm has previously tried to push through a slew of different projects for the disused property. The attempted plans have ranged wildly in size, with some as small as 26 units and others more than 20 times that scale.
It was granted permission in 2008 to build 353 homes, along with playing pitches, retail units and other facilities, however that approval expired in 2013. The local council refused to grant the the company an extension.
The most extravagant proposal for the site was floated in 2004 when the company said that it would build 700 housing units in the area as part of a €250 million redevelopment plan.
Construction was expected to start in 2007 and at the time it was envisaged that the development would include a pub, cafe, restaurant, shops, a medical centre and childcare facilities, however these plans also did not come to fruition.
Horse racing in the region continues at the Limerick Racecourse in Patrickswell, which was opened in 2001 and is owned by the same company.
The most recent accounts for the Limerick Racecourse Company show that it made a loss of just under €153,000 in 2014 following a small profit the year before, while turnover fell from €2 million to €1.8 million.
So far the company has spent just shy of €7 million on the site at Greenpark including the cost of buying the site and overheads. It also has loans of over €17 million outstanding to Bank of Ireland.
The firm previously said in its accounts that with signs property prices were starting to stabilise “we have turned our attention to the company’s 100 acre property in Greenpark.
“We are currently working on a strategy to reduce debt while maximising the value of the site over the next five years.”
The most recent house price report from Daft.ie showed asking prices in Limerick city were up 18% year-on-year, the equal-fastest growth of any urban centre in the country. However the average going rate of just under €150,000 was still around one-third below that for homes in either Galway or Cork city.
No one from Limerick Racecourse responded to multiple requests for comment from Fora when contacted about the plans.