Clare County Council granted planning permission to Zest, the retail division of Shannon-based EFG Catering, for a restaurant, café, and food hall outlet on the site of the burned down Avoca store in Bunratty.
The company stated that the investment, of between €1.2m and €1.5m, will result in 40 permanent jobs.
The council granted planning permission in spite of objections from local businesses, including from one the best known pubs in the country, Durty Nellys.
EFG Catering has already established its Zest brand at outlets in Limerick and Ennis, while the majority of its business relates to providing in-flight meals for aircraft through Shannon Airport.
According to planning documents lodged by Zest with the council, it explained “the proposed building will be the flagship Zest! premises, expanding beyond the existing cafés, patisserie, and food hall concept to a more complete culinary experience.”
It continues: “The project will be an opportunity to develop the Zest! brand and product offer, and the proposed premises aims to add to the existing tourist infrastructure in the area. The premises will be the destination venue in its own right to residents of counties Limerick and Clare.”
According to consultants, the proposed Zest design derives its form and character from buildings in the rural landscape and medieval fish trap structures used in the Bunratty area.
However, an objection lodged on behalf of Maurice Walsh of Durty Nellys stated: “The Zest development, because of its uncompromising modern design and the horizontal emphasis of its roofing landscape will severely detract from the setting and character of Bunratty, a national monument, and Bunratty Bridge, one of the few remaining hump-back bridges left in the country.
“We have serious concerns that the proposed development will be unacceptably dominant in the village of Bunratty.”
It adds: “The Zest proposal represents a lost opportunity to provide Bunratty with a top class tourist product which would compliment and support the existing facilities surrounding Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.”
An objection from Gallagher’s Seafood restaurant stated that “there are currently eight trading restaurant businesses, one restaurant is closed, and only two retail businesses... With a restaurant closed this indicated that the food market is sufficiently catered for in the area.”
In the council’s report recommending that planning be granted, it noted the third party objections to the plan. “However, the proposal is considered to be in keeping with the zoning objectives for the site and whilst there are a number of restaurants in the village at present, it is not considered to be the role of the planning authority to interfere with competition in this sector”.
Zest did not return a call for comment yesterday.