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Clare hurling legend's plans for new retail centre shot down by An Bord Pleanala

By Gordon Deegan

Clare hurling legend, Brian Lohan has expressed frustration with a decision by An Bord Pleanála that has refused his plans for a retail centre on the outskirts of Ennis.

The double-All Ireland winning full back had teamed up with Inch businessman, Martin O’Malley to change the use of a Westpoint business park on Ennis’s Kilrush Rd from warehouse zoning to a neighbourhood centre that would include an anchor supermarket and eight retail units along with a medical centre.

Clare Co Council last year gave the plan the go-ahead. However, the proposal encountered strong opposition from local businesses and couple of local residents while a third individual, Jim O’Leary with an address at Curraghnalaght, Blarney, Co Cork also lodged an appeal against the Council decision to An Bord Pleanála.

Others to appeal include local businesses, O’Sullivan and Hansbury Ltd, Donie O’Keeffe, Harnett Homes and Estate Developers & Bridget Harnett, along with residents, Noel and Karen Mulhaire.

Mr Lohan today heads up a successful auctioneering and financial services business and lodged the application through his Lohan Property Ltd while Mr O’Malley operates the joint applicant firm, Clare Car and Tractor Parts Ltd.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Lohan said: “We are very frustrated with the decision by An Bord Pleanala. Clare County Council has already supported our planning application in a site which is zoned as a neighbourhood centre and it is fully in line with the County Development Plan.

He said that An Bord Pleanala has made a decision which amounts to a radical departure from the County Development Plan "which has left ourselves baffled and astonished”.

Mr Lohan said: “This development would have provided a badly needed Healthcare facility for Ennis supported by the HSE, enhancement of existing business in Westpoint and attracted new business to the area."

[quote]We have received the support of local residents, Ennis national School, local business people and Clare County Council and we would like to acknowledge that support. We will continue providing our facilities and car park to the school (for the Walk to School programme) and local community groups.[/quote]

Mr Lohan also expressed his frustration with aspects of the inspector’s report which recommended that planning permission be refused.

In its ruling, the appeals board refused planning permission stating that the proposal would be of an excessive scale which is beyond what would be reasonably envisaged for a neighbourhood centre in the area.

The board found that the planned development would create a counter attraction to existing town centre services and would seriously impact on the vitality and vibrancy of Ennis town centre and would constitute an unsustainable form of development which would principally be dependent on private car based transport.

The board ruled that the proposal would contravene the policies of the Mid-West Retail Strategy and the Mid-West Regional Planning Guidelines.

The board also found that the proposal contravened Ministerial guidelines on retail planning for local authorities.