Retail space guidelines introduced, says Hogan

 

MINISTER FOR the Environment Phil Hogan has insisted draft guidelines to relax the floor space limits on retail premises in Dublin and other major cities have been introduced in negotiation with the EU-IMF troika.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins had called on the Minister to acknowledge that the EU-IMF deal “did not specifically provide for an increase in that cap” on floor space.

“It provided for a study,” he said, warning that any change in the regulations to allow more space for retail premises “would squeeze the smaller retailers in town centres”.

Mr Hogan said: “When the EU and IMF ask you to carry out a study, they do so with a particular purpose in mind.”

Earlier this month, the Minister introduced draft retail planning guidelines allowing for a lifting of the limit on the size of retail premises. The guidelines are open for public consultation until December 20th.

Mr Hogan said in the Dáil yesterday that the proposed changes were for the modification of grocery retail floor space “in Dublin and the major cities”, but they did not allow change to the “existing floor space levels for petrol station outlets, retail business parks or neighbourhood and district centres in provincial towns”.

Mr Collins said small businesses, retailers and family businesses were under increasing pressure and “have an issue with increasing the cap on retail space for the bigger multiples”.

It was a “core function of good planning that we develop from the core of towns and villages outward, rather than enhancing the already developed out-of-town shopping outlets”.

Limerick was an example of that, where “the doughnut effect around the city is prevalent and has essentially torn the heart out of the inner city. All sorts of drastic measures will be required to rebalance that.”

Mr Hogan said the draft guidelines “play a critical role in refocusing on plan-led development rather than a developer-led approach”.

He was aware of the key role of the retail sector and that, in provincial towns in particular, retail businesses were under pressure.

He did not wish to do anything that would “massively distort the marketplace even further for those businesses”, so there would be no changes to floor space in provincial towns.