Sunday 20 October 2019

Cinema refused at Cleveragh Park

The corner building above which has been refused planning for a 9-screen cinema. Pic: Carl Brennan.
The corner building above which has been refused planning for a 9-screen cinema. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Sorcha Crowley

County planners have refused cinema empire brothers Paul and Lorcan Ward the chance to open a "luxury VIP" 9-screen cinema in Cleveragh Retail Park.

The brother's company, Coogee Park Ltd was refused planning permission just before Christmas for their application to turn a corner retail warehouse into a cinema in the retail park.

One of the main reasons for the County Council's refusal was that they considered the cinema was too far from the city centre (1km) and would damage the "vitality and viability of the city centre."

Furthermore, they considered the cinema would encourage car dependency and single-trip car journeys which would go against their policy of reducing car travel.

The Ward brothers and their family also own the IMC cinema group which operates the Savoy and 17 other cinema complexes around the country.

They are rivals of Ireland's largest cinema chain, Omniplex Cork Ltd, which owns the Gaiety Cinema in Wine Street.

Omniplex objected to the Ward's application on the basis that the nature and scale of their proposed cinema would "undermine the vitality of the town centre" and would be "detrimental to the longer-term viability of the town centre."

Omniplex also argued that the cinema would not be in line with a condition of the parent planning permission of Cleveragh Retail Park which restricts the sale of goods to retail warehousing.

The Gaiety owners also contended that the proposed second cinema for Sligo town would contravene the zoning objective of the site and be inconsistent with national and local retail policy.

County planners said they were not concerned with the "alleged motivations" of the Omniplex submission and said their chief concern was the suitability of the Cleveragh park site to cinema use and the impact it would have on the vitality of Sligo city centre.

"The applicant contends that, like other similar sized towns, two cinemas can successfully operate in Sligo. However, there is no detailed research or evidence to substantiate this claim. In any case, the capacity for a second cinema is not the ultimate concern of the planning authority. Rather it is the suitability of the subject site for the proposed cinema," they wrote in their report.

Planners said: "It is stated that other sites were considered for the proposed development but were not considered suitable. No detail of specific sites has been provided however."

Planners also considered the distance of the park from the city centre a deterrent, which would result in the generation of "significant motor vehicle trips."

They also said there was "little evidence available to support the contention that the proposed cinema would provide a new "VIP" offer which could not be located in the city centre" and considered there would be "little synergy" between a cinema and the surrounding open space areas at Cleveragh and the existing Retail Park.

Sligo Champion