‘Chopped’ facing flagship closure over planning row

Seán McCárthaigh

Freshly Chopped is facing closure of one of its flagship outlets after it was refused retention planning permission for its branch on Dublin’s Grafton St.

The salad bar/healthy eating retail chain could now be the subject of enforcement action by Dublin city council if it continues to keep the store open. It follows a ruling by An Bord Pleanála which upheld the original decision of the council to refuse planning permission for the change of use of the building from a newsagents to a delicatessen as well as for a new shopfront.

The board rejected the appeal by Freshly Chopped despite the company’s warning that over 600 jobs across its entire chain of 45 stores could be under threat if it was forced to close its Grafton St branch. It accused the local authority of not facing up to “real world” issues by denying it retrospective planning permission.

Freshly Chopped, which was established by business partners Brian Lee and Andy Chen in 2012, had not sought planning permission for the Grafton St outlet prior to its opening.

In its appeal Freshly Chopped claimed:

If this store closes it could damage the company so much that it will jeopardise the brand entirely, along with over 600 jobs

The company rejected suggestions it was a fast food outlet, claiming no cooking or frying took place on its premises but “simply the boxing up of salad options” and it should be regarded as a “higher order health food offer”.

Freshly Chopped has expanded rapidly in the last six years and now operates 45 outlets in Ireland, the UK and Cyprus.

In its planning application, the company claimed it was “a genuine Irish success story” which had been started during the recession and it was “unlike any other food offer in Dublin city”.

In its ruling An Bord Pleanála said the change of use of the building to a gourmet salad bar for the sale of fresh salads, sandwiches and soups would result in a loss of a ground floor retail unit on Grafton Street which is regarded as a ‘category 1’ street.

Under the Dublin City Development Plan, the council’s policy is to protect the primary retail function of the capital’s principal shopping streets with an emphasis on “higher order” retail outlets.

“It is considered that the proposed retention and permission would seriously injure the amenities of the area, would detract from the retail character, would result in an undesirable precedent for future non-retail development on this street,” the board said.

It said granting planning permission for the Chopped stores would be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

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