Updated: 25/11/11 : 06:16:53
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Tesco loses appeal on Penneys plans

By Eugene McGloin

TESCO HAS lost its appeal against the proposed multi-million development by Penneys in O'Connell Street, Sligo, including its current store and the former TSB Bank together with  portion of car park at rear of its its current premises.

Bod Pleanala has informed the parties of its decision, with 20 conditions attached. Five conditions describe development levies which must be prepaid or (usually) paid in phased payments by Penneys to Sligo Borough Council, totalling just short of 1.5 million euro. These include Condition No 17 which imposes a  levy of 1.22 million euro "in respect of car parking facilities benefitting development in the area of the planning authority."

Prior to the commencement of development Penneys has to submit and agree proposals with Sligo Borough Council planners to cater for people with disabilities, including wheelchair accessability.

The recent ruling also confirms that a separate pedestrian access route from Wine Street car park to Johnston Court and Tesco shall be maintained at a width of 1.5 metres at all times.

Other conditions signed off by An Bord Pleanala include requirement for a a demolition management plan, in line with 2006 ''best practice'' Irish guideines, including details of waste to be generated during site clearance.

Penneys plan a new store of 52,000 square feet across two storeys fronting O'Connell Street, rising to four storeys over a basement story at the rear of extended site.

Tesco lodged its appeal with Pleanala last summer, citing almost one dozen grounds of objection after Sligo Borough Council had granted permission on June 9th last. Tesco objections included the need for a new Master Plan in the vicinity due to the changed ecoomic climate, possible major negative impact on traders in the area - it even suggested that Penneys was engaged in "premature and piecemeal" development -  loss of car parking spaces and relocation of these would have severe impact on Tesco, both in access terms and in visibility terms.

The appeal also complained of the potential for anti-social behaviour  in the space between the completed Tesco and Penneys Store. Tesco also said that the development  posed a threat to the existing jobs in its own store in the Arcade.

Board Pleanala has now ruled that Penneys proposal complied in particular with the Centre Block Master Plan, which, it noted, includes "the provision of bulk service access from the west and the provision of multi storey car parking.

"The proposed development, said Pleanala, "would not be.....premature or detract from the amenities of property in the vicinity of the site, would not adversely impact on the character and setting of the protected structure, and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety." It also ruled against Tesco on the issue of reliance of third part lands needed for the Penneys development.

Planning Inspector Deirdre MacGabhann had prepared a 24 page report and recommendation for the Board of Bord Pleanala after visiting Sligo on September 1st 2011. This was in response to Tesco's third party appeal to the Penneys permission granted with 31 conditions attached in June.

Crucially, her recommendation to Pleanala dated October 3rd 2011 commented that  "the proposed development would not be......premature or detract from the amenities of property in the vicinity of the site and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety. The proposed development would, therefore, be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."

In law, The Board of An Board Pleanala may accept or reject an Inspectors report and recommendation, in total or in part. Its own Board deliberations are not published. The Direction of the Board, in the name of Mary McMahon, was conveyed to parties as follows:-

"The submissions on this file and the Inspector's report were considered at a Board meeting held on 7th November 2011.  The Board decided to grant permission generally in accordance with the Inspector's recommendation, subject to the amendments shown in manuscript on the attached copy of the draft order."

Tesco now has no further grounds of appeal against the planning decision itself. Only in strictly restricted circumstances could it go to the High Court to seek leave for a  judicial review.

The only future role for Pleanala in this matter would be in the event of any dispute between Penneys and the Borough Council planners on points of detail or conditions. Any such crux would require to be referred back to Board of An Bord Pleanala for determination.