Planning Board overturns refusal of new Lidl store in Birr

Thursday, 21 December 2017

AN Bord Pleanala has overturned Offaly County Council's refusal of planning for retail giant, Lidl to demolish its existing store in Birr and build a new supermarket on the site.
This week, the Board granted planning permission, subject to a number of conditions, to the German retailer to demolish its existing store (1,255 sq.m gross floor space), located on a 1.11 hectare site along the Tullamore Road, Birr and to construct a new foodstore, totaling 2,680.5 sq metres gross floor area. It will also see the provision of 142 car parking spaces at the site.
Previously, Offaly County Council considered the proposed development would "seriously injure the visual amenities of the area by reason of its inactive facade facing a national secondary road" and also represented "poor quality of urban design at this pivotal location at the entrance into Birr heritage town".
However in making its decision issued on December 14, An Bord Pleanala considered that, subject to compliance with the conditions set out by the Board, the proposed development "would not represent a poor quality of urban design or seriously injure the visual amenities of the area" with the Board's Inspector outlining that the reasons for the refusal were in fact "unfounded".
Looking at the proposed development, the Inspector noted how the application details indicated the proposed development was "intended to upgrade and enhance the quality and availability of welfare facilities for staff and customers alike". The proposed upgrade of the Birr store, the inspector pointed out, was part of "an ongoing modernisation drive which will see the replacement of the existing store with what is known as the LOF design format". Under the proposals, the replacement store, which is of "generic corporate design", will be repositioned along the southern boundary of the site and closer to the Tullamore roadside boundary.
In their assessment, the inspector later acknowledged the "laudable efforts" of the local authority planner in seeking to achieve a "bespoke design solution" for the site in the quest of architectural innovation worthy of location in the heritage town of Birr.
However, they noted the edge of the town location of the appeal site and the established character of the area and the fact the proposal sought to "replace an existing structure which currently provides little by way of enhancement of the public realm". The inspector also acknowledged a reasonable balance needed to be achieved between "design innovation and the practical and operation requirements of the first party (Lidl)".
Looking at the grounds for appeal, the Inspector felt the re-development of the site "affords the opportunity to provide a modern retail building of a higher specification and will enhance the character of the area and provide a better shopping and working environment.". The report also noted specifically in relation to the three poster panel display boards directed inward to the surface car park, "protected by effective landscaping screening proposals" wouldn't be visible on the Tullamore Road.
In the lengthy report, there were also other issues pertaining to the planning authority's decision and reports, technical reports, third party observations, planning history in the area, national policy, the planning authority's response, siting and design, and other matters.
Meanwhile, in granting the permission, the Board attached a number of conditions including the continuous screen planting of indigenous trees and shrubs along the boundary and the completion of a comprehensive boundary treatment and landscaping scheme. The developer was also ordered to provide details of the materials, colours and textures of all external finishes to the proposed development while the road works associated with the proposed development including the setting out of the entrances, paving and surface finishes shall be carried out and completed in accordance with the requirements of the planning authority.
According to the Board's order, Lidl will not be allow any additional signage other than that shown on the submitted drawings and there were other conditions pertaining to awnings, canopies or projecting signs, and having no external roller shutters. No advertisement or advertisement structure other than those shown on drawings submitted with the application shall be erected or displayed on the building or within the curtilage of the site in such a manner as to be visible from the outside of the building, unless authorised by a further grant of permission.
There were other conditions relating to refrigeration, ventilation or air conditioning, water supply and drainage arrangements, and public lighting. The Board ordered that all service cables associated with the proposed development (such as electrical, television and public lighting cables) shall be run underground within the site. A waste management plan has to be submitted while the construction of the development shall be managed in accordance with a Construction Management Plan, according to the Board's order.
Finally, the developer was ordered to pay to the planning authority a financial contribution in respect of public infrastructure and facilities benefiting development in the area of the planning authority.


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