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No Aldi for Shannon-An Bord Pleanála rejects its own inspector’s view

WHILE a Bord Pleanála inspector actually recommended that Clare County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for an Aldi store in Shannon be overturned, his own board have rejected his conclusion and have denied planning.

It seems to be the end of the road for the proposal for the Aldi store, something that many local people would consider to be a step in the right direction for the town and a step towards developing a conventional streetscape.

In his report, Inspector Rónán O’Connor wrote, “I do not consider that the provision of the convenience retail store would diminish the range of services within Shannon Town Centre but rather would be complementary to same. This would, in turn, increase the attractiveness of Shannon Town Centre with a potential reduction in vacancy rates in the town.”

He found that the development would increase competition within the town, which would also be in keeping with national retail policy.

There is not another alternative site available nearby, he found. “The planning authority did not raise an objection to the location of the proposed development per se, having regard to the sequential test and
did not identify a town centre site that was suitable for the proposed store. In their observations at planning application stage, SkyCourt management state that site A (to the south-west of the existing Lidl
store) would be suitable for the Aldi store. This was ruled out by the applicant, as it is stated it is not of a sufficient size.

“SkyCourt management, in their submission at application stage, state they have identified other suitable sites that were presented to the applicant. These are not explicitly identified however. As such, from the information on file and from my observations on site, I concur that there are no suitable sites within the existing town centre for a store of this nature.”

The type of development proposed was acceptable on the site from a zoning perspective he felt. Mr O’Connor also wrote that a pedestrian crossing should be required to be provided by the applicant.

One of the reasons the council had refused planning was the location of parking in the proposed development, however Mr O’Connor didn’t agree.

“I do not concur that walking times or distance would be materially impacted as a result of the car parking to the rear and there are design benefits to the proposed location, which allows for the built form to create definition along An Bóthar Mór.”

He added, “I do not consider the location and provision of car parking and associated access road would stymie development of the remainder of the town centre zoned lands. Conversely, the provision of the access road to the western and northern edges of the site, creates opportunities for the development of lands to the west and north of the site.”

He recommended that planning be granted, subject to 17 conditions.

However, the board did not accept his view and in its direction, it stated, “In deciding not to accept the inspector’s recommendation to grant permission, the board considered that the zoning of the site for town centre/mixed use, as set out in the Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan, required a mix of retail and other uses and the board did not accept that a standalone development of the type concerned – a convenience retail store – with no certainty with regard to the provision of other uses on the remaining lands encompassed within the zoning, was acceptable.

“In this regard, the board concurred with the view of the planning authority that this represented a material contravention of Objective 5.7 of the Local Area Plan.

“Furthermore, the board was not satisfied that the proposed building, notwithstanding the amendments made to the elevations as part of the appeal, was adequate in design terms to provide the necessary urban form for this pivotal site within Shannon, and was of the view that the site, and adjoining landholding, required buildings of multiple storeys and also considered that the proposed development was not of exemplar design, as envisaged under Objective 5.9 of the Local Area Plan.”

Owen Ryan

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