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A general view of the Maxol filling station at Clareabbey roundabout in Clarecastle. Photograph by John Kelly

Planning refusal fuels appeal by Clare Maxol station operators

Claim that Council decision is based on ‘subjective, unsubstantiated opinions’ unsupported by facts

THE operator of a forecourt on the outskirts of Ennis has appealed against Clare County Council’s refusal of permission for refurbishment plans, claiming the decision “is based on subjective, unsubstantiated opinions”.

Maxol Limited was recently refused planning permission to refurbish and rearrange the internal area of the food hall of its existing forecourt on the Ennis Road, Clarecastle.

The application sought permission to expand the existing deli offering to include a branded hot-food takeaway, with 20 people to be employed.

Under the proposal an existing children’s play area – closed since March 2020 due to Covid-19 and that presented difficulties regarding safe sanitation levels for future use” – would have been removed to allow for a reallocation of food hall space to provide a new layout.

In refusing planning permission last November, however, the local authority concluded the plans “would result in an undesirable and haphazard intensification of use at this edge of town location”.

The council’s chief executive’s order noted the proximity of the site to Ennis, Clarecastle and the Clareabbey roundabout and the N85.

Due to its nature and scale, proposed development, including a restaurant with associated takeaway, “the planning authority considers that the development as proposed would lead to further intensification of commercial uses on the subject site” the order states.

This, he stated, “would have an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Ennis and Clarecastle and would constitute an unsustainable form of development which would be principally dependent on private car based transport”.

Concerns were also raised that the development “would endanger public safety by reason of a traffic hazard.”

An appeal of the decision has now been lodged by Maxol Ltd with An Bord Pleanala. The appeal, prepared by PABIA Consulting on behalf of Maxol Ltd, contends that the proposed development is in accordance with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development and has requested that the decision be overturned.

The document argues that there is no policy that prohibits the introduction of a quick service restaurant at the proposal site.

“The council’s principal concern about the impact of the proposal needs to be viewed in the context that Ennis is a vibrant and healthy town centre with multiple roles and attractions.

“(That) it has a large number of eateries across all spectrums of the hospitality industry and that there is quantitative growth in available spending for takeaway food some eight times larger than the turnover of the proposal.

“These indicators alone point to the likely absence of any harm arising from this proposal,” it states.

A photographic record of Clarecastle demonstrates that Clarecastle has attracted “considerable numbers” of new urban infill developments with “no evidence” to suggest that the Maxol project “has in any way damaged the vitality and viability of Clarecastle village” since its redevelopment three years ago.

The appeal states that all applications should be treated on their merits, with concern of a precedent being set if given the go-ahead “unsubstantiated”.

The sale of hot food is and will continue to be a “tertiary offer”, with the appeal arguing “the council’s suggestion that the proposal will be a destination in its own right is subjective conjecture and has no policy or evidential basis for it to be sustained as a basis for refusal”.

The council’s concern that the proposal will cater for ‘short trip long stay’ customers is “inconsistent” with the findings of a study demonstrating the function of the site at present which is ‘long trip short stay’ customers.

The appeal continues, “The fundamental objection that the proposal will result in a haphazard and undesirable intensification of the use of the site is unsubstantiated and plainly contradicted by the facts.

“The application is consistent with its land use zoning, it is consistent with its planning history, it is consistent with the current operators within the building, and it is capable of comfortably being included with in the building given the building was originally designed, approved and built to provide two quick service restaurants.

“To class this development proposal as haphazard ignores the facts of this case.”

Addressing the council’s concerns about the effect of the development on traffic, the appeal states that traffic surveys showed “no violations” of the permitted traffic manoeuvres at the junction.

There was no objection from TII or from the Roads Design Office of Clare County Council to the application and no objections from members of the public or other bodies, the appeal points out.

Analysis “clearly shows” that the predicted proposed development traffic is “negligible” in comparison to the recently surveyed traffic on the surrounding road network and the proposed development will not interfere with the safety and free flow of traffic or endanger public safety.

The appeal further goes on to state that its location will make it “very unlikely” to prove an attraction to school children. A decision on the appeal is due to be made in May.

by Jessica Quinn

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