The Mr. Price shop in Cornamaddy, Athlone, pictured last year.

Council's planning refusal for Athlone Mr Price shop overturned by An Bord Pleanála

A decision by Westmeath County Council to refuse planning permission for a Mr Price shop at its national distribution centre in Cornamaddy, Athlone, has been overturned by An Bord Pleánala.

In a decision finalised earlier this month, the board permitted the retention of the retail premises, subject to eight conditions.

The council had refused retention for the store in April 2022, based on its location outside of the "retail core" of Athlone, but a report by an inspector for An Bord Pleanála disagreed with this rationale.

"There is an adequate population catchment within a 10 minute drive of the site to ensure the development will not directly impact on the turnover of existing retail units in the town centre," stated the planning board's inspector, Caryn Coogan.

"The development is more likely to introduce competition into the area as opposed to vacancy, and the retail offer should complement as opposed to detract from the retailing in the core of the town."

The planning appeal had been lodged last year on behalf of Corajio, trading as Mr Price, in a bid to retain the change of use of a former wholesalers/warehouse building to a shop, including ancillary staff offices and canteen, car parking and associated site works.

The appeal outlined how, in 2018, the applicant invested €2.5 million in Athlone, turning the former Nexans site in Cornamaddy, which had been vacant since 2008, into a nationwide distribution centre with a target of creating 200 jobs over three years.

The company said the Mr Price shop on the site was "providing a localised retail offering" and was "ancillary to the operation of the warehouse and distribution centre," which supplies some 60 Mr Price shops nationwide.

"The development offers limited consumer choice. Therefore, customers will have to use other retail facilities such as traditional supermarkets and established shopping centres," the appeal argued.

Furthermore, it said the shop was "key" to Mr Price's online offering, as it "functions as a picking station for the online store".

Westmeath County Council had refused retention permission for the shop, stating that if it was granted the development would "compromise both the regeneration and rejuvenation of the defined retail core" of Athlone.

The development would be an "unacceptable" use of a "strategic site which is zoned and serviced at this out-of-town centre location," according to the council.

However An Bord Plenála disagreed, with its inspector, Ms Coogan, stating that the Mr Price development in Cornamaddy "seeks to rejuvenate" an extensive site which had previously been vacant.

"The land is suitably zoned, which accommodates a retail function alongside an ancillary use already on the site," the inspector stated.

"The shop is anchored to the warehouse and distribution centre. It serves a local need."

She went on to say that the shop did not represent an unacceptable use of a strategic out-of-town centre location, and was "not contrary" to national or regional planning guidelines.

"The floor area dedicated to sales to the public only comprises 15% of total floor area of the applicant’s operation on the site, demonstrating that retailing is ancillary to the main purpose and function of the site as a national distribution centre," Ms Coogan found.

The planning board upheld its inspector's recommendation that it should overturn the council's decision to refuse the development and should instead grant permission for it.

The retention for the store was permitted subject to eight conditions, including that details of all signage should be submitted to, and agreed with, the council within three months.

The board also stipulated that 10% of all parking spaces for the shop should be provided with electric vehicle charging stations.

It also stated that recycling bring banks, and a pedestrian walkway, would have to be provided at the Mr Price site within three months.

An Bord Pleanála signed off on the decision on Monday, December 11.