Policy RET1 Retail in Town Centres

Proposals for retail development will be permitted within the town centre26 (where defined). For other locations, a sequential approach to site selection will be applied in the following order of preference:

  1. Edge of Town Centre boundary (i.e. adjoining it or within 300m); and
  2. Out of centre locations (i.e. outside the town centre boundary but within settlement limits) where sites are accessible by walking, cycling and public transport.

Proposals for other town centre uses (cultural and community facilities, leisure, entertainment and businesses) shall also follow the sequential order a) to b).

There will be a presumption to refuse a retail application outside of these locations unless the applicant can demonstrate that:

  1. Alternative sites within these locations are either not suitable, not viable or not available (or any combination thereof), and;
  2. There is a qualitative and/or quantitative need for the proposal, and;
  3. There will be no significant adverse impact on the town centre(s) within the catchment area.

All proposals must meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Justification and Amplification

Protecting and sustaining the viability and vitality of the established town centres and their promotion as the appropriate first choice location of retailing and other complementary town centre functions is a key tenet of regional planning policy. Council also expects to see town centres performing to their maximum potential in meeting the needs of citizens and visitors and contributing to the local economy.

Proposals for retail and other town centre uses27 will therefore only be considered outside the town centre when the sequential test has been undertaken. Preference will be given to edge of centre land before considering an out of centre site provided it has been demonstrated that there is a need for the retail provision and that there will be no significant adverse impact on the existing centre.

The assessment of need should incorporate a quantitative and/or qualitative assessment taking account of the needs of the local town, committed development proposals, and allocated sites. A qualitative assessment considers the quality of goods, services or retail environment on offer and whether the proposed development, if warranted could transform it. A quantitative assessment is a numerical exercise to analyse whether there is a floorspace need for particular types of retail goods or services within a specific town.

For clarity, edge of centre means a location that is well connected to and within easy walking distance of the town centre. In determining whether a site falls within the definition of edge of centre, account should be taken of local circumstances such as barriers, for example crossing major roads, carparks, attractiveness and safety and size of the town centre. A site would not be well connected where it is physically separated by barriers such as a railway line, busy road or lack of pedestrian access.

Where it is established that an alternative sequentially preferable site or sites exist within the catchment area of the proposed development, an application which proposes development on a less sequentially preferred site will normally be refused. Where it is argued that no other sequentially preferable sites are appropriate, the applicant must demonstrate why such sites are not practical alternatives in terms of their “availability, suitability and viability”.

  • Availability - The applicant will be required to submit evidence of any insurmountable legal or ownership problems such as unresolved multiple ownerships, ransom strips, tenancies or operational requirements of landowners that render the site unavailable.
  • Suitability - The appropriateness and likely market attractiveness for the type, scale and form of development proposed. There will be a requirement to consider flexibility in the format and scale of the development proposed for the city centre and other centres.
  • Viability - A viability assessment should include the land/site value as a key consideration as to whether development is economically viable. In order to determine applications a realistic understanding of the costs and the value of the development in the local area, as well as the prevailing market conditions, should be submitted. The timing of the assessment will be dependent on the nature and scale of the development proposed.
  • 26 - Policy will apply to town centre boundaries as defined in existing plans until such times as they may be amended through the adopted Local Policies Plan.
  • 27 - Includes cultural and community facilities, retail, leisure, entertainment and businesses.

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