Shannon Municipal District councillors may well have wanted success for Aldi’s planning application to build a new supermarket – but it appears that they failed to make any submission backing the proposal during the assessment period.
For this reason, Shannon Municipal District as a body and its individual councillors are precluded from becoming involved in making a submission to the statutory process should Aldi decide to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanala.
At their recent bi-monthly meeting, members of Shannon Municipal District expressed their frustration with the decision taken by Clare County Council’s planning department to refuse Aldi planning permission for a new supermarket development in the town.
Responding to two motions on the agenda, senior planner Brian McCarthy said, “It should be noted that the application is still within the appeal period to An Bord Pleanala and, as such, and in the interest of due process to first and third parties, the planning authority will not be elaborating further with regard to same.”
In his contribution, Cllr Mike McKee spoke in favour of the proposed Aldi development, saying that it would have “been competition to SkyCourt to take away the stranglehold that SkyCourt has on retail in this town.”
Challenging the rationale of the planning decision, independent councillor Gerry Flynn focused on a reference to the Aldi design being incompatible with a streetscape for Shannon. In his view, there has been no conformity to any proposed streetscape on either side of the road all the way from the traffic lights at Aiden Park, along Bóthar Mór to the town centre.
Cllr Flynn called on the senior planner to explain this aspect of the decision given that the Aldi proposal would have stimulated employment and encouraged further investment in Shannon Town. As things stand, he said, the refusal may impact on future development.
Describing the refusal as “a backward step for Shannon”, Cllr PJ Ryan said he has seen many plans since being elected to the council but he now wants to see something actually done.
Fianna Fáil councillor Cathal Crowe claimed the council was “cutting off its nose to spite its face”. He recalled other occasions when the planning authority refused permission for major developments in the county. Cllr Crowe claimed the University of Limerick campus was once mooted for the Meelick area, also in 2007, he said an application to build a greyhound stadium just inside the county boundary was refused and that stadium was subsequently built on Limerick’s Dock Road.
According to Cllr Crowe, Bord na gCon didn’t hang around after they were turned down and quickly found an alternative site, similarly, Aldi may now decide to locate somewhere else. More importantly, Cllr Crowe said the decision to refuse Aldi sends out the wrong signal for Shannon, “it says that we’re not open for business.”
It was proposed that the district councillors committee should make a submission to An Bord Pleanala (ABP) in favour of the development in the event that an appeal is made by Aldi. However, Cllr Gerry Flynn pointed out that ABP rules only allow submissions or observations from third parties who have already made a submission in relation to the planning application. He also noted that members can appeal to the High Court on a point of law but said he doesn’t have the resources to pursue this option.
In his commentary, Cllr Mike McKee said there were two objections to the Aldi application, “one from SkyCourt and one from another person who is related to another business in Shannon.” The planning file contains two objections, one from SkyCourt and the second from a person with an address in Raheen, Limerick.
As was pointed out by Cllr Gerry Flynn, SkyCourt and any other party, including individual councillors, were perfectly within their rights to make a submission to the planning process.
Meetings facilitator Liam Conneally pointed out that planning is a statutory process and the council’s decision has now been made. Furthermore, because members of the Shannon Municipal District did not make a submission while the application was being assessed, he advised them against making a submission at this stage and to let any appeal to An Bord Pleanala follow due process.
As Shannon MD is part of the planning authority’s corporate body, Mr Conneally stated, “let the planning merits of the case be adjudicated by An Bord Pleanala. I advise against getting involved in the appeal process as it would fetter us as an organisation.”