Dublin councillors vote to prevent Clerys change of use

City representatives pass motion to stop department store from being used for offices or hotel

Clerys department store on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Clerys department store on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

 

Dublin city councillors have voted to prevent Clerys department store from being used for offices or a hotel.

Clerys was sold by Boston-based Gordon Brothers to Natrium Ltd earlier this month.

OCS Operations Ltd, which had been running the shop, was then placed into liquidation, resulting in the immediate closure of the department store.

More than 400 staff - including direct employees of Clerys and those working for concession holders in the department store - lost their jobs.

Natrium had said it intended to invest in the rejuvenation of the O’Connell Street property and to turn the building into a “mixed use destination”.

However, city councillors described Natrium as “vulture capitalists” and voted to retain the building as a retail premises only.

Labour councillor Mary Frehill said her party’s motion, that the council would not “alter the use of the entire Clerys building”, was intended to send the message that the council “will not tolerate any organisation that wants to come into this city and asset strip at the expense of workers”.

People Before Profit councillor Bríd Smith also put forward a motion, agreed by all councillors, that the council should refuse any change of use unless the company met with the former Clerys workers and provided an enhanced redundancy offer.

However, the council’s head of planning, Jim Keogan, said the council could not make any planning permission conditional on issues other than proper planning and the provisions of the development plan.

Protected structure

Clerys is a protected structure and the exterior of the building and some original internal features cannot be changed.

It is also protected by a conservation control measure for O’Connell Street, the “Area of Special Planning Control”, a designation which protects the existing, or last use, of a protected structure, where that use is intrinsic to the social, cultural and economic character of the area.

However, the planning control expires next September, and unless it is renewed the future of Clerys will be governed by the general development plan policy for O’Connell Street.

This protects the primary retail function and to control non-retail uses at ground floor level, but allows offices, hotel rooms or apartments at upper levels.

Mr Keogan said the control policy would be reviewed shortly.