Friday 30 September 2016

Councillors urge caution as takeaways, adult shops and arcades face O'Connell Street ban

Claire Murphy and David Kearns

Published 07/10/2015 | 15:42

The Spire in the middle of O’Connell Street
The Spire in the middle of O’Connell Street

Chippers, adult shops and arcades may be banned from opening on O’Connell Street in the future.

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Dublin City Council is to consider a new plan for future development of the street –including the former Clerys department store.

Clerys closed last June after the company, OCS Operations Ltd, which had been running the shop, was placed into liquidation, resulting in the loss of over 400 jobs. 

The draft scheme of special planning control which also includes Henry Street, North Earl Street and Middle Abbey Street, as well as Westmoreland Street and D’Olier Street, is designed to protect the area’s architectural, cultural, civic and historic character.

Read More: Broadcaster Joe Duffy rants on live radio: 'Dublin is an unadulterated kip... the city is being turned into pound shops'

It will also aim to encourage future ‘appropriate commercial’ development.

The scheme discourages “less appropriate uses” of premises and gives extra planning powers to protect existing shops of “special significance”.

Certain types of shops, including amusement arcades, bookmakers, fast-food outlets, mobile-phone shops or “adult entertainment” shops will not be given permission under the scheme.

However, the council does not have the power to close shops already in existence, but rather prevents further outlets from opening.

Clerys department store
Clerys department store
Clerys clock

Speaking to Independent.ie, Labour councillor Mary Freehill cautiously backed the proposal, saying that the city centre should be developed to encourage shoppers to congregate in and around O’Connell Street and its surrounding areas.

Read More: Clerys workers haven't met new owners since closure

“It’s a challenge faced by cities across the world – people’s shopping habits have changed, no one is coming into the city centre to buy anything heavy or bulky.

“What we need are anchors, destinations that the area can be built up around – until recently, Clerys helped fill this role.

“These kinds of structures/stores are what draw people in. I would love to see Clerys open again as a department store because it is in the perfect location to be a focal point for any plans to renew O’Connell Street and its surrounding areas.”

Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street
Staff and supporters protest outside Clerys on O’Connell Street

Natrium, which previously said it wants to turn the Clerys building into a “mixed use destination”, has not lodged any planning application to the council.

In June, city councillors voted to stop Clerys being used for offices or a hotel, but such a restriction can be enforced only if it is in compliance with planning policies.

Read More: Shock as Boyers to shut up shop with the loss of 83 jobs

Cllr Freehill said that “extensive research” was needed if DCC wanted any future development of the street to succeed.

“We need to find what businesses we can attract into the area rather than hope for certain types to pop up.

“I walked around Amsterdam recently and its main street was full of international brands.

“It was busy but honestly I could have been strolling down any street in the world.

“All the smaller, interesting stores were nestled in the side streets.

“If these are the kinds of stores we want populating O’Connell Street and the surrounding area than we need to know how we can encourage them, and where its viable for them to open up.”

Fianna Fáil councillor David Costello echoed this sentiment, saying that a “detailed studied was needed before DCC goes ahead with this”.

“We need diversity on the streets, not just the same brands plastered across every store front,” he said.

Read More: Clerys concession holders to get €400k, but still left short

“What’s happening in the capital is the same thing that has been going on throughout towns and villages across Ireland.

“We’re losing diversity – walk around Finglas village and you can’t even buy a pair of socks.”

According to the scheme, additional planning permission will be required for any change to “existing important historic stores” – including Clerys department store, the Gresham Hotel and Easons.

“It is an objective of the scheme of special planning control to protect such uses that contribute significantly to the special character of the area,” the plan outlines, according to a report in the Irish Times.

However, it references permission to change retail format and layout of important historic stores, in line with changing consumer demand.

“In the event of any such proposals being submitted, the primary objective will be to attract uses and formats that will contribute to the development of a strong and competitive retail sector on O’Connell Street and the restoration of the street as the principal civic thoroughfare of the city and a major shopping destination,” the report says.

The scheme will be available for public consultation and submissions for eight weeks.

The final plan must be approved by city councillors before it comes into force.

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