Thursday 21 February 2019

Work can proceed on €150m Clerys scheme after Siptu withdraws appeal

Ethel Buckley from Siptu and former Clerys worker Gerry Markey at the planning hearing in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Frank McGrath
Ethel Buckley from Siptu and former Clerys worker Gerry Markey at the planning hearing in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Frank McGrath
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Trade union Siptu has dropped its opposition to the controversial redevelopment of the iconic Clerys department store after striking a deal for former workers who lost their jobs when the business closed without warning.

The country's biggest trade union has withdrawn its appeal against a grant of planning permission awarded last December, paving the way for work on the €150m redevelopment to get under way.

It is understood the deal may include a settlement package for former Clerys staff, along with a commitment to provide good quality jobs with fair working conditions when the redevelopment is complete.

Details of the settlement will be announced by Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, with representatives from Siptu and Natrium director Deirdre Foley this morning.

It comes after some 460 staff, which included employees of Clerys as well as those employed by concession holders, were left without work after the store closed its doors in June 2015 after it was bought by Natrium for €29m.

Natrium is a joint venture between D2 Private, whose chief executive is Ms Foley, and a UK company Cheyne Capital Management.

Clerys was restructured in 2012 as part of a receivership process by its previous owners and bankers, which resulted in the property assets being separated into one company, and the day-to-day retail business operation put in another.

When the operating company went into liquidation, staff were made redundant. Some working for concession companies may have been relocated to other outlets.

The State paid statutory redundancy to workers totalling €2.5m.

Dublin City Council granted planning permission for the redevelopment last December, but the decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Siptu.

A public hearing into the scheme opened yesterday morning, and was due to run until Friday.

Read More: Clerys redevelopment will provide 'new focus and heartbeat' to O'Connell Street - An Bord Pleanála hears

However, after requesting an adjournment, Siptu informed An Bord Pleanála inspector Gillian Kane that it was withdrawing its appeal.

In a brief statement, Siptu services division organiser Ethel Buckley, speaking on behalf of the Justice for the Clerys Workers Campaign, said a process had been established which would "adequately deal with our concerns in relation to the Clerys development".

"Due to this, it is now possible for Siptu to withdraw its appeal to An Bord Pleanála," she said.

The €150m redevelopment includes a 176-bedroom hotel, rooftop viewing terrace, retail units and offices. Built in 1922, Clerys has undergone a series of facelifts over the years, with architect Rory Murphy from Henry J Lyons telling the hearing the redevelopment would "reactivate" Earl Place and other under-used streets just off the capital's main thoroughfare.

"We're looking to reactivate Earl Place, and allow active use. The Luas sits either side of the building and the movement of people will be quite considerable," Mr Murphy said.

Developers claim some 3,000 jobs will be created when the scheme is complete.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has revealed it is considering if there are grounds to take criminal action following the shock closure in June 2015. A report will be issued in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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