Nama plans threaten Drogheda project
STATE AGENCY Nama’s plans to fund a cinema and retail development in Drogheda threaten a similar, privately backed, project that is already under way in the town, it was claimed yesterday.
Nama recently indicated that it would decide shortly on whether to provide funds to revive plans to build a cinema complex, restaurant and retail space in the town’s Scotch Hall centre at a cost of €20 million.
However, earlier this year, An Bord Pleanála gave Melcorpo, owner of Drogheda Town Centre, permission to develop a five-screen cinema and restaurant there.
The company is not in Nama and is financing the project from its own resources.
One of its directors, Nick Furlong, said the viability of Melcorpo’s plans were threatened by the proposals to which Nama was considering giving support.
Its proposal involves converting over 15,000 sq feet of unused retail space into a cinema. The company believes that Drogheda already has too many shops and has market research showing there is demand there for more cinemas.
Mr Furlong pointed out that the local authority supported its plans from the outset as it involved adding a new cinema, which the town needed.
“Almost everybody was in favour of our project from the beginning,” he said. “Where we are calling foul here is that Nama is now coming along and saying ‘we are going to do this’.”
He added that the Scotch Hall expansion would add more retail space in a town that is already overshopped. Its existing centres have vacancy rates varying between 20 and 40 per cent.
Edward Holdings, owned by property player Gerry Barrett, developed Scotch Hall, which was opened in 2001. Nama acquired the loans secured against it two years ago.
The original plans, dating back 12 years, provided for a cinema. They lapsed, but were reinstated in 2009.
Once Nama took charge of the loans, it was assumed that the agency would not expand the centre.
Drogheda already has a four-screen cinema, which is not enough to meet demand. If Scotch Hall’s plans were to go ahead alongside Drogheda Town Centre’s, there would be 13 new screens, which Melcorpo believes would not be viable.
A spokesman for Nama stressed that the agency did not comment on specific cases.
He pointed out that where it provided funding for any project, it only did so on commercial terms and on the basis that the plans were viable.