UK property group Hammerson and Irish Life have been denied permission by An Bord Pleanála to develop a casino at the Ilac Centre in Dublin.
Hammerson and Irish Life co-own the shopping complex. Hammerson also owns stakes in Dundrum Town Centre and the Pavilions in Swords.
Last summer, Hammerson and Irish Life submitted a planning application to convert an existing vacant retail unit in the Ilac Centre. The unit had previously been occupied by clothes brand Jack & Jones.
The re-purposing of the two-storey unit would have seen a 24-hour casino and ancillary “family entertainment” at the ground and first-floor levels. Casino operator Expo was to operate the venue.
Dublin City Council rejected the proposal, saying it had “serious concerns” that permitting a casino at the location would set a precedent for such a non-retail use on primary shopping streets in the city centre.
Hammerson and Irish Life appealed the council’s planning refusal to An Bord Pleanála.
“It is argued that in the current context, there is serious strain on the retail market with a drop in footfall in such areas,” noted a planning inspector for the watchdog on the pair's appeal.
“It is argued that there is a worldwide trend to more leisure-oriented uses on former retail premises, and it is argued that facilitating this would protect the overall viability and vitality of such centres,” he added.
But despite arguments from the property group and Irish Life, An Bord Pleanála also rejected the casino plan for Coles Lane.
“While I would accept the general argument made by the applicant that flexibility and change is vital for malls, streets, and retail areas to thrive and survive in the coming years, I find it difficult to see any strong justification on this for permitting a use like this on a vital entrance for the mall,” noted the planning inspector.
“It is as likely in my opinion to be problematic for Coles Lane as it is to be a benefit, either in daytime or in the evening. I do not consider that a case has been made to change the use from either retail or restaurant use as previously permitted.”
Retail destinations have been hit hard by lockdowns and reduced footfall over the past year due to the pandemic. Hammerson has collected just 31pc of its rents due in Ireland for the first quarter of this year.