ALDI has failed in its bid to change the planning rules and allow it to open a new discount store on the outskirts of Limerick city – but the German giant’s plans may not be scuppered yet.
When the proposal came before county councillors this Monday, the council divided along party lines, the Fine Gael party split on the matter and the long-standing Fine Gael/Labour consensus broke.
It is now unclear whether the development in the Raheen/Dooradoyle/Mungret area has run into the sand or whether councillors from the Adare area will attempt to raise the matter again.
After the vote on Monday, Adare area councillor, Richie Butler, who supported the Aldi proposal going on public display, said: “The Adare area councillors have the right to bring this matter back in here and we might invoke that right.”
But it was a proposal from a fellow party member and fellow Adare councillor Rose Brennan which killed off Aldi’s hopes of changing the planning regulations in the southern environs. She proposed the council would not proceed with the proposal and this was agreed on a vote, by a margin of 13 votes to 11. Among the 11 who voted against were the Fianna Fail and Labour councillors as well as Fine Gael councillors Richie Butler and Leo Walsh and Independent Pat Fitzgerald.
An Aldi store would create a doughnut effect, Cllr Brennan insisted this Wednesday and she felt there were enough big supermarkets in the southern environs. Sending the matter back to the Adare area for the third time would be ridiculous she said. “It’s just musical chairs,” she declared.
Meanwhile, Cllr Butler rejected any suggestion that he had voted against his party. “I voted in agreement with the Adare area committee,” he said. “It is just local democracy in action.” And he pointed out that a majority of Adare area councillors had agreed at an area meeting to let the proposal proceed and go out on public display. However, it is understood Cllr Rose Brennan was unable to attend that meeting. Cllr Butler also pointed out that four of the seven Adare councillors had voted in the chamber to let the proposal proceed – himself, Leo Walsh, Leonard Enright and Tomas Hannon. Cllr Enright was absent when the vote was taken and Cllr James Collins had excused himself before the debate began, explaining that he had land in the area which might be affected by the proposal..
“I am not saying there should be an Aldi or Lidl in the area but it should be put on public display,” Cllr Butler said. “If the people of the are want an Aldi or Lidl then they are quite entitled to it.” Cllr Leo Walsh had argued at the meeting that the council should try to persuade Aldi to opt for a smaller shop.
Last June, Aldi made a presentation to the Adare area councillors, asking that the county development plan and the local area plan be modified to allow a shop floorspace of more than 900 square metres. Aldi wanted this to be increased to 1400 square metres. The proposal was opposed by the council planners.
On Monday, Fianna Fail leader in the council, Michael Collins asked that the matter be referred back to the Adare meeting and also asked Cllr Brennan to reconsider.
Cllr Leo Walsh wanted some compromise with Aldi but director of services, Tom Enright said they had tried this approach. Fine Gael leader John Sheahan said the party position was that it could lead to a displacement of business rather than add to it.
He added however that it wasn’t an unanimous decision.