Moate yes, Monksland no
It was a week of contrasting fortunes for residents of Moate and Monksland - with much delight that the Westmeath town is set to gain a multimillion euro supermarket development on a prominent site but the sprawling South Roscommon area will have to wait after plans for a second supermarket there were turned down.
A new €6.8m Aldi store in Moate was approved on Wednesday, news that was welcomed by many locals who believe it will offer more choice in terms of shopping in the Moate area and stop the drain outwards to neighbouring towns.
The green light will alter the retail landscape of the area substantially amid hopes it will attract more shoppers back into Moate.
It also comes with the promise of 30 new jobs and another 50 during the construction phase.
Aldi said it is aiming to open the 1,315 square metre store on the Athlone Road on a portion of the old Roseland site in 2025.
On the other side of the coin, a plan for a second supermarket in Monksland has fallen foul of the planners in Roscommon County Council for potentially creating a “car dependent” single retail operator that would work against the local authority's Smarter Travel Initiative and the Athlone Joint Retail Strategy which emphasises a “mixed use centre” in that area.
A company called MCS River Village Limited had submitted plans in early autumn for a single-storey supermarket spanning over 2,200 square metres gross with an off-licence sales area on a green field site, close to Joe Duffy Motors and the Athlone Springs Hotel.
Several of the engineering drawings submitted with the proposal, first lodged on September 27, were headed "Lidl Store Athlone, Roscommon" which had heightened the prospect of the German discounter coming to the rapidly growing Athlone westside suburb.
The directors of MCS River Village Ltd are listed on the planning file as Michael and Catherine Smith, with a company address of 1 Terenure Place, Terenure, Dublin.
The supermarket plan was earmarked for land zoned "District Centre" on a 0.91 hectare site currently "overgrown and vacant," the planning documents lodged in support of the project indicated. Surrounding the site are open fields to the south and east, and to the west, the site is bordered by ARM Academy and the Athlone Springs Hotel.
Roscommon County Council turned down the plans in recent days on three separate grounds, the first being that as the store would form part of the District Centre zone, in the local authority's view the store would not “provide an integrated mixed land use approach” to the development of the land as set out in Monksland/Bealnamulla Local Area Plan.
It would, the ruling contended, militate against the Athlone Joint Retail Strategy for the River Village Area to “develop as a mixed use centre”.
Secondly, if permitted in isolation, the council pointed out that it would result in “a single retail operator development” which would be “car dependent” without connectivity or integration into the surrounding District Centre zoned lands, it argued.
In the council's view, the proposal would not be conducive to create a “vibrant centre and sense of place” in the core area of Monksland/Bealnamulla, and would work against the achievement of the principles of the Roscommon Smarter Travel Initiative which underlines pedestrian mobility and alternatives to the car.
There were two submissions lodged in relation to the Monksland proposal.
The local authority was also unhappy with the “generic design approach” planned which it stated was “lacking in architectural merit” which would fail to provide a “unique sense of place in the commercial area”.
The applicant now has four weeks from the decision date to lodge an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
Interestingly, the Moate supermarket project will be powered by 100% green electricity with over 245 solar panels on the roof.
Colin Breslin, Managing Director of Buying and Services, ALDI Ireland said: “We are delighted to announce that we have been granted planning permission for a new ALDI store in Moate. We are looking forward to contributing to the local economy by adding up to 30 permanent jobs, as well as offering customers the best value in the market.”
In June, Aldi Stores (Ireland) Ltd first applied for planning approval to develop a discount foodstore and 117-space carpark on a vacant site on the Athlone Road approach to Moate.
On August 8 last, the project was put on hold when the council requested further information from the retail giant under a number of headings, including the need for a pedestrian crossing on the Athlone Road, delivery times/volumes, traffic safety for the 0.98 hectare site.
In October, the developer lodged a series of reports to address the concerns of the local authority, saying it believed the extra data “satisfactorily addresses” the items raised.
Among the conditions laid down by the council in this week's approval include the payment of €47, 286.18 in development contributions towards the infrastructure in the area, that any damage to roads be “made good” by the developer and that an updated Construction Environment Management Plan be submitted.
In addition, there are conditions dealing with noise levels, landscaping, working hours and the developer is asked to proceed with a modified proposed entrance, which affords higher priority to pedestrians and cyclists. More details in relation to a controlled pedestrian crossing on the R446 are also needed before the project commences. Four electric vehicle charging points will be provided on-site with a landscaped civic space in front of the shop.
There were three submissions lodged during the local planning process.
Fine Gael Cllr Tom Farrell said he delighted the store has been approved for Moate, saying it will be very good for the town.