City proposes change in planning policy to protect Grafton Street’s ‘premier’ status

Mobile phone shops, arcades and internet cafes will not be encouraged in new strategy

Grafton Street: Since the 19th century, the street has been fabled as a premier commercial centre in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Grafton Street: Since the 19th century, the street has been fabled as a premier commercial centre in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson


Grafton Street is to be protected as a high-end commercial experience on which a raft of business types – including internet cafes, sex shops and mobile phone outlets – will not be encouraged, a policy document has said.

While stalwarts such as Brown Thomas and Weir & Son’s are name-checked as an “essential” part of the city’s most famous shopping street, changes are being pushed through to prevent any watering down of that image.

Apart from businesses types, the draft 2013 Scheme of Special Planning Control for Grafton Street and Environs proposes strict guidelines and restrictions on outdoor advertising, shop signage, architecture and the preferential use of various floors on each building. The document is an extension of general policy reviewed every six years. But it is the first time specific changes in planning laws and exemptions have been proposed to help certain types of commercial trade.

‘Architectural glory’
“This is a cleansing process in order to streamline the street and make an attempt to bring it back to its architectural glory,” said independent Dublin City councillor Mannix Flynn.

“It is absolutely to be welcomed and encouraged; it will make the experience of being in Grafton Street a more pleasant one.” The document will go out for an eight-week public consultation period and will be put before Dublin City Council this summer. The purpose is to reinvigorate the area as the south city’s “most dynamic retail experience”, “re-establishing the area’s rich historic charm and urban character”.

“A number of uses on Grafton Street are of special significance through their long association with the street. Businesses such as Brown Thomas, Weir and Sons and Bewley’s Cafe are now an essential part of the street’s character,” it says. Since the 19th century, Grafton Street has been fabled as a premier commercial centre in the city and it has featured regularly over the years on the list of the world’s most expensive retail strips.

Retail outlets
“There will be a strong presumption in favour of granting planning permission for higher order comparison retail outlets, including fashion outlets, ‘lifestyle stores’, flagship stores, niche and specialist retailers such as home furnishings, jewellery and books,” the documents says. The likes of restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries, tailors, hairdressers, barbers and beauticians will be encouraged at first-floor level and above while offices will be permitted above first floor.

However, if the proposal is accepted, planning will be refused for a number of business types – arcades, bookmakers, discount shops, fast food, laundrettes, mobile phone shops, off-licences, sex shops and supermarkets – “as they would detract from the character of the street”.