Trojan work Devin – very impressive. It really has to be acknowledged the painful amount of repetitive, detailed work that goes into following up these unauthorised works. It is the mundane reality of monitoring development which goes unpaid, un-praised, and unacknowledged by the majority who don’t have the time or will to pursue the cause of good planning.
The sheer scale of the flagrant breaching of regulations by such an established, so-called ‘reputable’ firm like Spar is genuinely shocking. It’s astonishingly widespread, replicated over and over again at every location. Obviously it’s the franchise operators that are central in this, but it’s all still happening under the brand and image bombardment pursued by the parent organisation on a wider level. That new generic nameplate yoke apparently issued by Spar Ireland says it all: something that can be tacked onto virtually anything, in almost any environment. It has clearly originated from Head Office as a standardised unit to be rolled out across the city, and yet with such a wealth of experience in retail planning, one would really wonder as to how they think this in any way conforms to shopfront guidelines and what is deemed to be appropriate development. Hence one can only come to the conclusion that with such an expensive venture (design etc), from such an astute, savvy organisation, they had every intention to churn this rebranding out in the knowledge that DCC is either a soft touch, or in the (probably to be expected) hope that nobody would notice.
As with the above stores, Spar on Upper O’Connell Street (featured before) in the elegant Lynam’s Hotel building equally continues to flagrantly flout planning laws, in what is supposed to be the most rigorously controlled urban environment in the country. Having applied for permission to erect a “new internally lit polished steel fascia sign, new SPAR & Dublin Bus projecting signs & new lighting over front elevation”, they were rejected outright by DCC in early 2005. They comprehensively claimed:
“The proposed development by reason of the material and colour of the internally illuminated aluminium fascia panel, the material and projection of the 'SPAR' and 'BUS STOP' projecting signs and the application of corporate imaging would be inconsistent with the policies and objectives of the O'Connell Street Architectural Conservation Area designation, would be out of character with nos. 63-64 O' Connell Street protected structures and would be contrary to the implementation of good shop front design, as provided for within the Dublin City Council 'Shop front Design Guide' and the 'Shop Front Design Guidelines for the O'Connell Street Area'.”
From what I can gather, this exact sign regardless exists over the premises at present, though possibly without the illuminated element - perhaps the intention of the application was to alter this to that proposed. If the sign is anything go by, it’s no wonder DCC rejected this token attempt at subtlety with silver lettering (which is itself quite reasonable), given the crude metal facia backplate onto which it and a logo have been mounted.
In any event, Spar simply hung a (prohibited) banner over the sign, and to this very day it still hangs there, within yards of the GPO.
Why should it be up to the public to sort these things out on such a principal thoroughfare? It’s simply not on that nobody in DCC Planning appears to be monitoring the principal thoroughfares of the city, again probably due to unfortunate under-resourcing on a wider level.
Similarly regarding Londis across the road – their ghastly ‘temporary sign’ will farcically be two years old in May, even in spite of featuring in a national newspaper, and being present throughout all of the planning for the 1916 Commemoration where it formed a delightful backdrop to the brass band. Again why should it be up to us to point out brazen indiscipline like this?
And on a related topic, there’s absolutely no excuse for genuine ‘temporary’ signs to be as garish as the above. These too should be severely clamped down on – the same regarding banners. If you can’t erect a basic unobstrusive sign for a couple of weeks, you don’t erect anything.
It’s very easy for us all to sit in our armchairs and chatter about these matters, so if you feel suitably riled by the sharp practice of Spar stores across the capital, write to them. Head Office is:
Spar Ireland Limited
Or alternatively e-mail. As “being at the heart of communities across Ireland”, they’re sure to take your comments graciously on board. They do after all “want to hear from you” so fill in their form on their website where "a member of staff will contact you shortly".
For once, a non-planning related point you raised at the end Devin is that that infuriates me most about these convenience stores. Every one in the city, no matter where, you’re greeted with the same mind-numbing glowing walls of refrigerated units of mineral water and soft drinks, ranks of cheap chocolate and crisps with absolutely no selection right across the city, the obligatory rack of stodgy salt, saturated fat and sugar laden pastries and white breads, the roar of an air curtain trying to curtail the bucketloads of artificially heated air belching out through the permanent gaping hole in the streetscape, and all dazzlingly lit with the subtlety of an arc lamp on steroids. Do take the Convenience Store Test for yourself: simply try sourcing a bar of plain chocolate in a branded convenience store anywhere in Dublin City - preferably not a slab of Bournville - and see how far you get.
It is so depressing to observe what has become of our former newsagents, and the impact it is having on our streets, even after dark. Yes, the modern streamlined interior design approach of the ‘flagship’ stores is a welcome improvement on what we have had, however they are in the extreme minority. It is laughable that Spar's timber-fronted Merrion Row store is depicted as if the norm on their website. Indeed their blurb in a media pack about the outlet is quite hilarious - clearly they deem only a 500m radius of Government Buildings to be of architectural merit in the city:
"despite planning limitations, [the building] offers passers-by a great view of the store and particularly its coffee, smoothie and sandwich offerings. The gold signage – a limitation of planning – works for the location far better than the traditional livery might. In such a mature area of the City, so close to government buildings and other areas of architectural interest, bright neon signage would set the wrong tone for the store anyway. Since there are very few parking spaces nearby on one of the busiest streets in the capital, the number of customers in cars attracted by the familiar SPAR livery would also be limited – negating the need for it.
So they openly admit what we already knew: 1) their signage is tawdry and tacky, and 2) is used for maximum impact on the streetscape.