Draft Retail Planning Guidelines

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, today published for public consultation, draft Retail Planning Guidelines. The aim of the draft Guidelines is to ensure that the planning system plays a key role in ensuring competitiveness in the retail sector advancing choice for the consumer while promoting and supporting the vitality and viability of city and town centres and contributing to a high standard of urban design and encouraging a greater use of sustainable transport. 

Minister Hogan said the draft guidelines, which will relax the floor space limits on retail premises in Dublin and other major cities, have been introduced as a result of negotiations with the EU-IMF troika.

When finalised after public consultation, the guidelines will replace those issued in 2005. The draft Guidelines take into account the recommendations of a Forfás Study Review of the Economic Impact of the Retail Cap (April 2011) prepared for the Departments of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, and Environment, Community and Local Government. 

This Study was undertaken as part of the terms of the EU-IMF programme for Financial Support for Ireland in 2010. The Forfás report concluded that careful usage of caps on the size of certain retail outlets was appropriate in promoting both competitiveness and vitality in the retail sector and that an increase in, or removal of the retail caps would produce mixed results including: 
● more vigorous competition in the largest population centres which can support a range of large stores; while 
● in smaller population centres, allowing larger superstores could lead to a greater concentration of retailers’ power and potentially higher prices for consumers. 

Minister Hogan highlighted that “This independent economic analysis recognises that the planning system has been instrumental in facilitating the expansion of the retail sector in recent years.” He added that “the planning process needs to be steadfast in underpinning a competitive retail environment driving down prices for the consumer while also applying the lessons learned from past mistakes by refocusing on revitalising our city and town centres, moving against the tendency of the celtic tiger era to envisage extensive, even sprawling extensions of our cities and towns, drawing the lifeblood out of older, established central urban areas” and highlighting that “the reviewed Guidelines underpin this approach.” Taking account of the findings of the independent analysis, key changes being provided for in the draft Guidelines are: 

(1) the revisions to the convenience retail floorspace cap moving to a three tier approach that provides for a differentiation in cap limits between Dublin (4,000 m2), the other four main cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford (3,500 m2), and the remainder of the country (3,000 m2). 

(2) the retail warehouse floorspace cap is to be maintained at 6,000 m2 and with specific criteria to allow for an exemption from this floorspace cap in city and town centre areas in the National Spatial Strategy gateway cities/towns; and 

(3) the petrol filling station shops floorspace cap is to be maintained at 100 m2 irrespective of location. 

The Minister also highlighted that “The draft Guidelines will also play a critical role in refocusing towards plan-led development in addressing the needs of the retail sector by determining a proper evidence base of the need for retail development and ensuring a proactive approach in facilitating the meeting of those needs. Such a plan-led approach will also be underpinned and delivered through greater co-operation by planning authorities in the preparation of joint or multi-planning authority retail strategies. Consequently, the draft Guidelines require the preparation of such strategies, by relevant planning authorities including the 5 gateway cities (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick/Shannon). 

The draft guidelines acknowledge that apart from the direct and indirect employment generated by the retail sector, shops play a major role in attracting people to cities, towns and villages, thus contributing to the overall economic vitality of those centres and supporting their role as centres of social and business interaction in the community. Retailing also supports the considerable investment by the public and private sectors in urban renewal, by providing shopping facilities to residents and by adding to the vitality and attractiveness of inner areas of cities and towns. Smaller towns and villages serve their surrounding rural areas by providing a range of facilities and services. 

The draft Guidelines are issued as a consultation draft to facilitate more detailed observations to be made by interested parties and are available to view and download from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government’s website: www.environ.ie. The closing date for receipt of submissions is 4 pm on Tuesday, 20 December, 2011. 

The guidelines, when finalised, will be published by the Minister under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) and will thereby be underpinned by statute. Pending finalisation of the guidelines, local authorities are requested to have regard to the recommended approach in the draft guidelines, when preparing or varying development plans and local area plans, and in regard to applications for planning permission. 

The finalised statutory Guidelines will be accompanied by a non-statutory Best Practice Manual which is intended to assist both planning authorities and prospective applicants in relation to design issues and the assessment of the vitality and viability of city and town centres. Submissions in relation to the draft guidelines should be sent to: Eoin Bennis, Planning and Housing (Policy & Finance), Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Custom House, Dublin 1 (or by email: eoin.bennis@environ.ie) 

Note Retail Floorspace Caps under the 2005 Guidelines Under the Retail Planning Guidelines (2005), a number of retail floorspace caps are in place as follows: Convenience or grocery retail has a two-tier floorspace cap of: 3,500 square metres within the Greater Dublin Area ◦◦(i.e. the four Dublin local authorities as well as counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow); and 3,000 square metres in the remainder of the State;◦◦ 

Retail warehouse has a floorspace cap of 6,000 square metres which applies in all areas except those locations within the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) gateway cities/towns covered by Integrated Area Plans under the Urban Renewal Act 1998; and Petrol filling station shops have a floorspace cap of 100  square metres irrespective of location. 

The Department previously published an Issues Paper in June 2010 to inform a focused review of the retail planning guidelines for planning authorities. The purpose of the Issues paper was to identify key issues for the review and to invite submissions from both stakeholders and the general public prior to the preparation of revised guidelines.

The draft Guidelines benefit from over 200 submissions received in response to this retail planning Issues Paper published by the Department in June 2010. Furthermore, on foot of the commitment under the EU/IMF Programme for Financial Support for Ireland that ‘the Government will conduct a study on the economic impact of eliminating the cap on the size of retail premises with a view to enhancing competition and lowering prices for consumers and discuss implementation of its policy implications with the Commission services’, Forfás were commissioned by the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, and the Department of the Environment, community and Local Government to undertake a review of the economic impact of the retail cap. Forfás completed its economic study report in April 2011, and a copy of this report is attached for information and reference (see here).

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