Retailers back proposal to locate new developments in town centres
RETAILERS gave a broad welcome to new planning guidelines for large shops published by the Department of the Environment.
The changes to the rules come after disastrous developments in many parts of the country destroyed city centres. The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission have meanwhile told the Government that it must relax rules on the size of stores as part of the bailout agreement signed in late 2010.
The Department of Environment said yesterday that the cap on the size of supermarkets in Dublin has been increased from 3,500 to 4,000 sq metres.
The cap on the size of supermarkets in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick was increased from 3,000 to 3,500 sq metres, while the cap for the rest of the country remains the same.
Out-of-town warehouse retail developments like IKEA's giant furniture store in Dublin are being permitted in the capital and other large cities, but other retail developments will now be limited to city and town centres rather than new retail parks and out-of-town retail centres
The department also plans to divide the country into five retail planning regions, with each region developing a co-ordinated retail planning strategy.
"Retailers are happy to see the timely publication of these new guidelines and we are supportive of the measures that are contained in the document," said David Fitzsimons, who leads lobby group Retail Excellence Ireland, which has 9,500 store members employing over 110,000 people.
Mr Fitzsimons said that if Irish towns and cities were to have vibrant and healthy retail cores into the future, a "town-centre first" approach to retail planning needed to be applied to all new developments
"It is now down to the local authorities and planning bodies to ensure that these measures are correctly adhered to. It will be crucial to the future vitality of the retail core of most towns and cities around Ireland that these bodies are up to that task."
The measures were also welcomed by the Irish Hardware & Building Materials Association, which it said would stop "the proliferation of retailing in locations where there has been poor demand, and which are unaligned with existing transport links".
Existing policies had "resulted in adverse impacts on the vitality of nearby city and town centres", the association added.
The "general presumption against large retail centres located adjacent or close to existing, new or planned national roads and motorways contained in the guidelines, is a major step in the right direction", the association boss Jim Copeland said last night.