AT the final meeting of Limerick County Council, councillors agreed to a change in the local area plan for the Southern Environs which may open the way for an Aldi store in the Raheen Dooradoyle area.
The change allows new stores to have a net floorspace of 1,400 square metres, where up to now they were restricted to 900 square metres. The change is also to be included in the county development plan.
Over the past number of years, Aldi has been actively campaigning for the change and the matter has come before the local area committee, the planning SPC and the full council on a number of occasions.
The county council’s planning section and the manager have consistently opposed the change, arguing that it was in breach of its retail guidelines and also guidelines for neighbourhood centres. They have also argued that the area is already well served by supermarkets.
The proposed change went out for public consultation earlier this year and nine submissions were received. Among those who made submissions, were the Limerick Chamber of Commerce who raised concerns about the impact on jobs in existing businesses.
They were also concernced about any adverse impact on the city centre and other centres in Limerick. RGDATA requested the proposal be reconsidered.
Tuesday’s decision to vary the local plan and to introduce the same change into the county development plan is likely to have wider implications for Limerick city where Aldi is planning three stores.
And the changes could also have implications for other retail companies planning stores and for towns and villages around the county.
On Tuesday, it was Labour’s Cllr Tomás Hannon who proposed the motion to vary the local area plan and the county development plan to include the change of restriction on net floorspace.
Before the item was reached, however, Cllr James Collins (FF) disclosed an interest in the item and withdrew from the meeting.
Cllr Hannon argued that the existing limitations were more restrictive than in other parts of the country and go well beyond the retail guidelines. It would still limit neighbourhood centres to a modest size, he pointed out.
Cllr Daniel Butler seconded the motion, arguing it was in the interests of competition and would reduce travel for people living in the area. “I hope the voice of the people will be hear on this matter,” he said.
The motion was passed without opposition from any councillor.
However, because the changes were opposed by management, the matter must now go to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and may well have to go to cabinet for a final decision.