Planning Consultant suggests retail planning guideline reduce competition

phillips_tomTom Phillips, Planning Consultant has called for greater flexibility for retailers and more guidance for local authorities during the ongoing Review of the Retail Planning Guidelines. “There seems to be an assumption that out of town retail developments are always detrimental to town centre development, but this is not necessarily the case. Currently, I believe, there is too much emphasis placed on assessing the potential impacts on existing retail outlets and this can restrict balanced development. The Review process offers a clear opportunity to strengthen the role of existing town centres while allowing greater choice and competition for consumers” he said, commenting on the Issues Paper recently published as part of the review process for the Retail Planning Guidelines. Phillips is Managing Director of Tom Phillips & Associates, and a Chartered Town Planner and Urban Designer.

Mr Phillips also contends that the current cap on individual retail warehousing floor space of 6,000 sq metres should be reconsidered. “In 2005 an exception was made for the development of IKEA, where the floor space was 30,500 sq. As a specialist large retail warehouse within a sizeable population catchment area, this project has been very successful and has not had the adverse impact feared by some. This cap is restricting significant further inward investment into Ireland and depriving consumers of a truly competitive retail market. There may well be more instances where the floor space cap can be lifted for appropriate development such as discount stores which are now established as a key component of the overall retail market”.

As part of the review of retail planning guidelines, the issue of car parking charges will be considered. Tom Phillips does not believe that edge of town retail parks should be compelled to charge for parking. “The whole idea of such retail outlets is that people can easily access them by car to purchase bulky items. Why would you force the introduction of car parking charges?” he said.

Commenting on the increasing number of clothing stores in retail parks he notes that “Many clothing stores are being forced to out of town locations due to the lack of suitable locations in town centre areas. The Guidelines should include clear provisions for local authorities to encourage them to make available for development underutilised or derelict town centre and edge of centre locations”.

The review process for the Retail Planning Guidelines 2005 is currently underway following the publication of the Issues Paper by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, TD. Submissions from interested parties are invited by the closing date of 30 July 2010.