13 Feb 2009

In one of the various strands of the planning and democracy mess that is Carrick on Suir, An Bord Pleanala reached an interesting decision a few weeks ago which you might imagine having serious implications for retail developments all around the country (but won’t). 

What happened was this – a local developer built an out-of-town retail park on the Waterford road, not far from the centre of town. Home furnishing chain Heatons agreed to be the anchor tenant which more or less guaranteed that other tenants would be found for the smaller units as well. At a minimum, fifty jobs would have been created in a part of the country where, even at the height of the boom, jobs were hard to come by.

But some people down in the Town Hall had other aspirations. Taking a hard line on a reading of a condition of the planning permission which said that the use of the new centre should only be limited to the sale of ‘bulky goods’, planning officials prevented Heatons from moving in by pointing out that their merchandise wasn’t especially bulky. The developer, as well as the retailers themselves, insisted that the Heatons range of products was, if not bulky, then bulky-ish. Or, at least, bulky enough to satisfy more than a dozen other local authorities around the county who’d given them permission to set up shop in edge of town retail parks.

However, Carrick Town Hall genuinely appeared to think that it was in the tax payers’ interest to have the term ‘bulky’ defined for once and for all: so, middle of last year, the planning department sent the whole thing off to An Bord Pleanala. Then, a few weeks back, the Bord issued its findings: it found in favour of the Carrick planners – Heatons, it would appear, do not sell bulky enough goods to comply with the planning guidelines. So now the home furnishings multiple will not be taking up space in the new development which means that the structure will continue to lie idle.

Technically, the Bord’s decision means that most of Heaton’s other outlets around the country don’t actually comply with the Government’s planning guidelines by virtue of their lack of bulk and that they should be shut down forthwith. This, of course, won’t happen. Nobody in the Heatons’ organisation (nor, indeed, anybody in other retailing organisations whom, you might imagine, would be affected by the decision (if, for example, you go to HomeBase and, instead of buying a fridge you decide that all you really need to buy is a half inch nail, does that mean you and HomeBase are doing something wrong?) is losing any sleep. Nothing will come of it. It's just the Carrick-on-Suir Town Hall playing silly buggers.

Meanwhile…

… as the development reffered to above sits idle, Carrick planners have given the go ahead for another shopping centre on the other side of town: it's located on a site on the edge of the Suir prone to flooding and which includes a proposal for the most unlikely bridge in the history of the State. Abosulutely camelheaded. It's going to An Bord Pleanala. Here's what I predict the Bord will rule:

  • The bridge can go ahead
  • The shopping centre can be built, but not the foundations
  • Additional parking will have to be provided for an unrelated development in Carrick-on-Shannon
  • A small building demolished in the time of Our Lord will have to be reinstated near the frozen foods

And also meanwhile…

… as Carrick and Cashel (where the planners screwed up so bad on that Campion situation, it’ll end up costing them (i.e. us) an awful lot of money) bring the structure of Irish society into disrepute, never underestimate the ability of other South Tipperary towns to manage same. I just had an interesting poke around Clonmel.

What THE HELL are the Council doing down at the Suir Island? What an effin disaster. Clonmel readers, I’m waiting to hear from you with your insights.

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