THE County Retail Outlet Village project has been halted by a direction from Planning Minister Peter Burke to delete a stipulation on the County Development Plan that would allow for such a development.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), which was only established in 2019, had made its first recommendation to Mr Burke to delete the variation after its advice was not followed by the county council.
The council wanted to build a Retail Outlet Centre in East Cork, despite much opposition from a number of bodies and organisations, as well as individuals.
The OPR had said the decision to amend the County Development Plan 2014 was “premature”, inconsistent with the Office of the Planning Regulator, and “should not be made prior to a joint retail strategy for the Cork Metropolitan Area”.
Among the 41 submissions that were sent to the regulator through the public consultation process, alongside the chief executive’s report in June 2020, were arguments against the proposed project from Waterford City and County Council, Cork City Council, the National Transport Authority (NTA), Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all expressing concern about negative effects of the proposal.
Cork City Council cited a potential negative impact on the vibrancy of Cork city centre and said the variation was not aligned with local, regional, and national policy in relation to protecting the role of the city centre and town centres in metropolitan Cork.
Along with Waterford City and County Council, Cork City Council said the proposal was contrary to the Retail Planning Guidelines 2012 and the South West Regional Planning Guidelines.
Independent county councillor Marcia D’Alton also made submissions against the Retail Outlet Centre.
Speaking to The Echo following the recommendation of the minister, Mrs D’Alton said she was relieved that the concerns of the stakeholders were not ignored and the OPR recommendation was listened to.
The Independent councillor said the message from the minister and the OPR appeared to be if the council would like to build a Retail Outlet Park in the county, it would need to do it properly, taking into account the opinion of the relevant stakeholders.
Mr Burke instructed chief executive Tim Lucey to delete variation two in the 2014 County Development Plan, which allowed for a location for a retail village to be chosen, ahead of a revised joint retail strategy for Cork Metropolitan Area.
Mrs D’Alton said this may not be the end of the retail village, but the process would need to begin again with a Joint Retail Strategy with Cork City Council and adequate consultation.
“Thank God what is right has been recognised,” Mrs D’Alton said, “And the opinion of the OPR has been taken onboard.”
The Independent councillor reiterated her previously voiced suggestion that the county’s towns and villages be modelled on Kildare Village in order to create an atmospheric shopping experience within these urban centres instead of building a Retail Outlet Village.