Caps on shop sizes set to be relaxed

Caps on shop sizes set to be relaxed

The new rules mean more international giants, such as Ikea, can open here

The Department of the Environment has published new retail planning guidelines which will see a relaxation of caps on shop sizes here.

Under the guidelines, which replace the 2005 retail planning guidelines, the size of large-scale supermarkets can be increased from 3,500sq m to 4,000sq m in the four Dublin local authority areas. Retail caps for the cities of Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick/Shannon can be increased from 3,000sq m to 3,500sq m. While the maximum allowable floorspace in the rest of the State stays at 3,000sq m.

According to today’s Irish Times, the guidelines note that British supermarkets Asda and Sainsbury’s have a combined share of 1.7 per cent of the Irish market, benefiting from cross-Border shopping trade, although neither retailer has a physical presence in the State.

The floorspace rules will apply to new shops and to extensions of existing premises. The previous guidelines made a distinction between general supermarkets and “discount food stores”, which were to generally be below 1,500 sq m in size. The new guidelines remove this distinction.

The guidelines row back on the development of warehouse and “out-of-town” retail stores permitted in 2005.

Under the previous guidelines, stores with a footprint in excess of 6,000 sq m, such as Ikea, could be built not only in Dublin and the four large city areas but also in the towns of Dundalk, Letterkenny, Sligo, Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore. Such stores are not now permitted in these towns and must be restricted to Dublin and the larger cities only.

The guidelines also state that there will be “presumption against” the development of any new retail parks and out-of-town centres. “The number of retail parks has grown substantially over the past decade, reaching saturation point in some areas, leading to vacancy in some cases,” the guidelines state.

There was potential for such retail parks to have a detrimental impact on city and town centres, and many of these stores could be located in vacant units in towns, according to the guidelines.

Local authorities have also been divided into five regions and are required to jointly devise retail strategies to ensure the best development for their areas.

Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan said the new guidelines would refocus retail development toward “plan-led” approach.

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