International discount supermarket chain Aldi is looking at potential sites of 1.5 acres for the development of a second food store in Ennis, it emerged this week.
If the group purchases the Ennis National School site on the Kilrush Road, which is expected to be vacated next September, it would result in a financial windfall for the parish.
In its submission to the review of Ennis and Environs Draft Plan, consultants John Spain and Associates, on behalf of Aldi Stores Ireland, stated the main aim of the submission is to make sure the appropriate planning framework is provided in the Draft Plan to facilitate Aldi in achieving its objective of developing a second discount store in Ennis.
The consultants stated this approach would be consistent with retail planning guidelines that recommend planning authorities take a more proactive approach to delivering retail development within their areas.
“It is suggested that the planning authority proactively look at the town centre, edge or centre or in smaller centres to ensure that appropriate sites are identified to meet the future retail needs of the town and its significant catchment population.
“The planning authority should identify a number of sites, which could accommodate floor space to ensure that development is brought forward in a timely manner.
“If the planning authority doesn’t consider that there are sufficient town centre sites to accommodate modern retail formats such as Aldi, they should identify edge of centre or out of centre sites to cater for such a development.
“Aldi require a floor space of about 1,500 square metres gross floor area, associated surface car parking and ease of access and egress for customers and deliveries,” the consultants stated.
County manager Tom Coughlan recommended the policies in the Draft Plan should make provision for all types of retail of a suitable type and at a suitable location including discount food stores.
Mr Coughlan proposed policies should comply with the regional retail strategy and national retail planning guidelines, while addressing the particular retail needs of the county town.
Labour Deputy Michael McNamara said he didn’t know if the Ennis National School site would be appropriate for a second Aldi store.
However, Deputy McNamara acknowledged it would be ideal for some form of appropriate commercial development due to its proximity to the town centre.
He pointed out locating commercial development on this site would not create the “doughnut” effect caused by large out-of-town major developments, that had hastened the rapid decline of Limerick City centre.
Paddy Coleman and Associates also submitted a separate submission on behalf of Ennis Parish, which stated the Ennis National School site would be ideal to cater for the identified deficiency in retail use in convenience and comparison goods within the town.
In order to increase the attractiveness of this site, the submission proposed that the town centre boundary be extended to encompass the site, which would greatly increase the prospect of developing the site in the near future.
This would transform the site into a strategic location for retail development in terms of sequential testing, as it would become a town centre location rather than an edge of centre location.
“Other sites in the town centre Cusack Park, the Ennis Shopping Centre and the Post Office Field, are not currently developable due to planning restrictions on these sites.
“Other landowners of the school site are all interested in the development of the site. The close proximity of the site to the town centre will allow for the interaction of pedestrians between shopping areas,” Coleman and Associates stated.
Mr Coughlan reiterated he would adhere to national and retail planning guidelines and pledged the Draft Plan would prioritise brownfield town centre sites as opportunity sites for retail development.
He noted the remainder of the submission related specifically to a request for zoning of particular lands, which couldn’t be considered under Section 11 of the Planning and Development Act.