Two Homesavers discount stores in Co Waterford which opened just before the Christmas market got underway must close down, the High Court ordered. While a third Homesavers store in Waterford city can remain open, it cannot sell convenience goods, including food, clothing and footwear, Mr Justice Garrett Simons ruled.
Waterford City and County Council got an interim injunction last month preventing the Homesavers operators remaining open because it was claimed they were in breach of planning permission.
The stores are in the former PC World unit on the Cork Road in Waterford city while the other two are in Dungarvan and Tramore. The action was against Homesavers operators: Centz Retail Holdings, Centz Stores 7, Centz Stores 8, ICE Cosec Service and the group's general director Naeem Maniar.
The Homesavers respondents got the court to lift the injunction pending determination of the full proceedings which were heard earlier this month by Mr Justice Simons.
They accepted that Dungarvan and Tramore did not have planning permission for retail use though had “belatedly” submitted planning applications for them, the judge said.
In relation to the Waterford city premises, they maintained the existing planning permission entitled them to operate if for retail use but they accepted the sale of “convenience goods” was precluded.
They disputed the council’s interpretation however of the existing permission, in particular the ruling out of sale of non-bulky goods.
They also claimed the council’s approach on dealing with these matters demonstrated a “motivation to attack the Homesavers’ operation in all three stores with blunt force”, was prompted by competitors and would result in job losses.
In his judgment ordering closure of two stores and restrictions on the third, Mr Justice Simons said it “strains credulity” that such a well-resourced company with more than 30 retail stores around Ireland would not have taken legal and planning advice prior to executing lengthy leases on these three premises.
He said Homesavers’s criticism of the council’s approach was untenable.
The respondents had “no defence” in relation to Dungarvan and Tramore and the court declined to exercise its discretion to postpone a closure order pending the outcome of the planning applications for those stores, he said.
It would be contrary to the public interest in ensuring planning compliance in circumstances where the respondents had shown a “reckless disregard” for the requirement to obtain planning permission before opening.
The closure orders were to come into effect from midnight Wednesday and all unauthorised signage to be removed within 72 hours.
The Waterford city premises can continue to operate but will be restrained from selling clothes, footwear, and convenience goods, including non-durable household goods and food. Unauthorised signs there are also to be removed within 72 hours.