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Artist's impression of the planned new Lidl store and mixed use development in Ennis.

Appeals lodged with An Bord Pleanala over Lidl Ennis plans

THE development of a second Lidl store in Ennis has been put on hold as separate appeals have been lodged to An Bord Pleanala, including one by the supermarket giant itself.

An appeal has also been made by retailer representative group The Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association (RGDATA) who say the decision to grant planning permission should be overturned.

Last month Clare County Council granted planning permission to Lidl Ireland for a €20 million mixed-use development at the junction of the Clare Road and Tobarteascain Road. As well as a new store, the plans included 20 residential apartments, a café and two commercial units. According to Lidl, the development would create 30 local jobs along with 100 more during construction.

However, Lidl has appealed against conditions of planning, including one which places restrictions on the use of the accommodation units. Lidl have also disputed a Special Development Contribution of €325,000 describing it as “not warranted and considered excessive”.

Meanwhile the RGDATA have urged that the planning application be refused permission saying the proposal has “failed to overcome” concerns raised by An Bord Pleanala in relation to a previous planning application on the site.

RGDATA is particularly concerned with the planning implications of such a large-scale retail development at this ‘out-of-town’ location on the periphery of Ennis. We are of the opinion that the proposed development represents a significant threat to the vitality and viability of the town centre and should not be permitted,” their appeal states.

The Lidl appeal, lodged on behalf of the retailer by MKO planning and environmental consultants, argue two conditions of planning “impede the potential success” of the proposed development and are “unwarranted requests” by Clare’s planning authority.

They have disputed Condition Four, which states that before starting the development an agreement is to be entered into with the planning authority which restricts first occupation of residential units to individual purchasers and / or social and / or affordable housing occupants.

Lidl’s appeal points to Department of Housing guidance on the regulation of commercial institutional investment in housing, arguing restrictions on sale / disposal of residential units is only applicable to houses / own door units rather than apartments.

The purpose of the DoHLGH Guidelines is to ‘ensure that own-door housing units and duplex units in lower density housing developments are not bulk-purchased for market rental purposes by commercial institutional investors’. This interpretation would lend itself to the conclusion that the Guidelines are not applicable to the Proposed Development which consists of 20 apartments and are not identified as own-door units,” the appeal states.

Lidl have also appealed against a request for €325,000 in Special Development Contribution fees towards an upgrade to the junction between the Tobarteascain Road, Clare Road, College View and the R458.

The appeal states these upgrades have been established by engineers as “unrelated to the proposed development”. “The additional improvements to the junction are unnecessary and the permitted development can proceed without additional traffic upgrades,” they say.

The Special Development Contribution fee of €325,000 presented in Condition 25 is not warranted during this phase of the development and is considered to be levied in respect of upgrade works that are not directly triggered by the proposed development. On this basis the enforcement of a Special Development Contribution is not warranted and considered excessive.” The appeal urges An Bord Pleanala to amend of omit the contended conditions.

Meanwhile, RGDATA in its appeal argue the scale of the proposal is “almost identical” to what was previously refused by the board in 2019. The location of the site adjacent to major roads’ infrastructure poses a “significant risk that the proposed development will draw from an extensive car dependant catchment area, with the potential to ‘siphon off’ a considerable amount of car based shopping trips, at the expense of the town centre,” they state.

The RGDATA say high vacancy levels within the town of Ennis have been “completely disregarded”, suggesting there are numerous opportunity sites identified in the County Development Plan which could potentially accommodate a modern retail unit such as Lidl within the town centre.

They contend the development at a “peripheral out of centre location” would materially contravene the Clare County Development Plan’s objective “to protect and enhance the vitality and mix of Ennis Town Centre land use and activities” and “to improve the suitability of the Ennis Town Centre retail accommodation for modern retailers, whilst preserving the town’s attractive historic character”.

A history of flooding on the site has also been highlighted by the RGDATA appeal among other concerns.

The appeal states, “Owing to the location and scale of the proposed development, RGDATA contends the proposed scheme will draw from a much wider customer base and will therefore result in a much greater retail impact on the surviving shops operating in the town centre.”

It concludes, “The proposed development would constitute a significant intensification of retail provision in this area to a degree that would be contrary to the neighbourhood centre designation. Furthermore, if left unchecked, the cumulative effect of significant new convenience retail developments at multiple neighbourhood locations, poses a real threat to the future vitality and viability of the town centre. This has the potential to compromise the delivery of town centre expansion, which is the most preferred location for significant convenience retail development. We are of the opinion that the key concerns of the board in relation to a large convenience retail store on this site remain unchanged and should be refused on this basis.”

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