A group representing independent supermarkets has failed to block the development of a large new Lidl outlet in north Cork.
RGData tried to overturn the decision of Cork County Council to grant planning permission to the German discount supermarket chain to demolish its existing store in Mitchelstown and replace it with a much larger facility.
An Bord Pleanála has ruled that Lidl’s plans for a 2,680 sq m supermarket on the Fermoy Road, in Mitchelstown, would not adversely affect the vitality and viability of the town centre.
However, the planning appeals board said the retail sales area cannot exceed 1,424 sq m. The size of the retail area of the current store, which opened in 2005, is 1,334 m².
RGData said it supported sustainable retail development in line with planning guidelines and which was in the best interests of local communities, consumers, and town centres, suburbs, and villages.
The association said it also supported new shops and new formats in town centres which added to choice, convenience, and value.
In its appeal against the new Lidl store, however, RGData said it would be more than double the size of the existing supermarket.
“It can be deduced, therefore, that the proposed development is intended to have a much wider catchment area and customer base, and will, therefore, result in a much greater retail impact on the existing shops operating in the town centre and on the surrounding villages,” said RGData director general Tara Buckley.
Lidl claimed the retail space of the new store was only 90 sq m larger than the existing one, as most of the extra space was for “back-of-house” operations.
It accused RGData of trying to delay the development, through its appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
RGData expressed its concern that a survey in May showed that 17 out of 127 retail premises on the main street of Mitchelstown were vacant, with the possibility of further closures, if Lidl were allowed to proceed with their plans for the new store.
It claimed no new retail development on the fringes of the town should be allowed, until the vacancy levels in the town centre were addressed.
Ms Buckley said the extended store planned by Lidl would contribute to the oversupply of retail convenience stores and exacerbate the “already significant vacancy issue” in the town centre.
Mitchelstown is served by six supermarkets and four service station forecourts.
Although it has lodged a number of appeals against similar developments, RGData said it was not “a serial objector”.
An inspector with An Bord Pleanáa said RGData’s arguments were not without substance or foundation. However, he did not consider that the scale of the new store would have a significant impact on the town centre.
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