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Starbucks opened Swords outlet ‘without proper planning’

Coffee chain’s local operator argues premises is a ‘shop’ - An Bord Pleanála disagrees

An Bord Pleanála has ruled that Starbucks opened a premises in Swords without proper planning permission. File photograph: Getty Images

Coffee chain Starbucks opened a premises in Swords, Co Dublin, without receiving proper planning permission, An Bord Pleanála has found.

The case concerned the change of use of part of a Smyths toy shop to use as a coffee shop at a unit of Airside Retail Park, Swords.

The coffee company had argued their premises remained a “shop” under planning laws but An Bord Pleanála found the premises was more akin to a café or restaurant.

Fingal County Council referred the matter to the planning board in May 2016 for it to determine whether the change of use of the unit from the toy shop was development or whether it was exempted development.

The council’s planning department had carried out a site inspection at the premises in January 2016 and again in March following a complaint that a retail unit had been converted into a coffee shop without planning permission.

The council issued a warning letter to Starbucks and received a reply from Tanrat Ltd (operators of Starbucks in the unit) stating that the unit was a shop.

The layout of the new unit consisted of about 15 tables with seating for 70-80 people as well as a display cabinet and service counter with sandwiches, cakes and the like, along with coffee machines.

The An Bord Pleanála inspector said the alternations to the unit amounted to works and development under the planning law.

She said the use of the premises as a coffee shop was clearly more akin to a café/restaurant than a shop. While a distinction does exist between a coffee shop and a café/restaurant, the inspector found the unit in Airside, with its seating and customer toilets, had all the element to operate as the latter.

‘Material’ change of use

Thus, she said, the change of use to the premises was material and not ancillary to the main use of toy sales.

“I am of the opinion that the change of use of part of the unit (192 sq m) from a toy shop to use as a coffee shop by Starbucks is a material change of use which is not exempted development,” the inspector wrote.

Starbucks has been involved in a number of similar planning cases. In September, Fingal County Council served notice on an outlet in Howth to discontinue its use after inspectors found they changed the use of the premises without planning permission.

In the same month, Waterford City & County Council served notices on a Starbucks in the city which had opened without proper planning permission.

In March, An Bord Pleanála ruled that Starbucks had opened three outlets in Cork city without obtaining the necessary planning permission.

Entertainment Enterprises Group, which runs Starbucks’ outlets in Ireland, did not return calls from The Irish Times.

A spokeswoman for Fingal County Council on Friday morning said the council would initiate enforcement action against the unauthorised development.