COUNTY Council planners have opposed a proposal from Aldi to change the regulations governing neighbourhood shopping centres to allow an Aldi shop to be built in the southern environs of the city.
At a meeting of the planning strategic policy committee, (SPC) last week, consultant John Spain set out the case for Aldi, arguing that a survey they had undertaken showed there was more than enough disposable income in the area to sustain one of their stores.
There are 20,000 (people) living in the southern environs and they don’t have a discount store, he said.
Aldi already has a discount store at Roxboro, which is doing exceptionally well, but, Mr Spain told the SPC, it wants to develop new stores in the southern environs, the city centre and the Ennis road.
Mr Spain said that current policy, set out in the county development plan and the local area plan, restricted the area of a foodstore in a “neighbourhood” centre to 900 square metres.
Aldi was seeking to change this to 1,400 square metres, he explained.
Earlier this year, Mr Spain had made a presentation to Adare area councillors where he said that Aldi had no specific location in mind but was looking to locate in the Raheen/Dooradoyle/Mungret area.
The councillors took no position on the matter but agreed to bring the matter before the full council where it was then referred to the planning SPC.
Council planning officer Stephane Duclot pointed out that the local area plan and the county development plan were in line with the regional retail strategy, which had been agreed by a number of local authorities.
That strategy involved a hierarchy of shopping provisions ranging from major shopping centres to district and neighbourhood centres.
According to the strategy, he said, the southern environs had five designated neighbourhood centres and there was no need for additional convenience foodstore floorspace in the southern environs until 2016.
There were already 14 supermarkets in the area, he said and two discount stores.
Mr Duclot also pointed out that the proposed variation from 900 to 1,400 square metres would result, in reality, in a store of 1800 square metres. “We are of the view the proposed variation should not proceed,” he said.
Cllr Michael Collins said he was “utterly and totally confused” because of the contradiction between what Mr Spain claimed and what the council planners claimed. “Somebody is telling the truth and somebody is telling something else,” he said.
“We always take direction from the area councillors,” he argued but Cllr Kevin Sheahan said this was the case only when it was unanimous.
“I don’t think we should change the rules,” Ger Quinn said. “I see no need for changing rules. I think we need to preserve our local centres.”
But another committee member, Tony O’Shea argued that people wanted bargains.
The difficulty, Cllr John Sheahan said, was the distinction between a district and a neighbourhood centre but he pointed out that even if the full council agreed to vary the plans, the manager had the power to overturn that decision.
The meeting concluded that it could not reach an agreed position but did agree to send the matter back for further discussion to the Adare electoral area councillors.