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Council bids to stop creation of new head shops

DUBLIN City Council is to crack down on the number of business premises in the city turning into head shops.

The local authority has outlined plans to require retailers wanting to change their premises into a head shop to get planning permission. The council also hopes to tackle issues such as head shops' late opening hours and signage.

The city centre has seen a huge increase in the number of shops changing their trade and becoming head shops in the past 12 months. In the past fortnight the Government has responded to public concerns in bringing in measures to criminalise the sale of legal drugs. However, retailers in the city can still go from being any kind of business to a head shop without planning permission.

Elected members agreed at a special sitting of the city council on Monday night to approach the Government in order to change legislation. It would mean the council would deal with planning permission requests such as those when a premises wants to change to become an off-licence or an adult shop.

Cllr Michael Connaghan (Lab), proposing the motion, said: "I know that the Government has stepped in but I think as a council we could do more."

Several councillors last night spoke of the need for tighter controls.

Cllr Paul McAuliffe (FF) said: "There is great frustration in that someone can open up a head shop with no planning permission and yet you need planning permission to build a wall or an extension in your own home."

Lord Mayor Emer Costello gave the example of the number of head shops on Dublin's Capel Street, which was granted Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) status two years ago to tackle the street's poor image.

"I was surprised coming down Capel Street recently not only at the proliferation of head shops since we granted the ACA but also at the signage that some of the head shops have," she said.