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23/09/2021

Council sets high bar for planning for prime site in centre of Tullamore

Council sets planning demands for prime Offaly site

Council sets planning demands for prime Offaly site

Offaly County Council has set the bar high for any planner hoping to develop the former Texas site in Tullamore.

The local authority stresses that proposals for the ‘prime opportunity site’ must include a mix of residential and retail.

They also appear not to favour large scale retail outlets and instead have a preference for smaller units that could house bookshops, cafes, or hairdressers.

The planning authority is now seeking what appears to be a full redesign of a planning application lodged by Weavermay earlier this year.

Headed up by local businessman Tony Flanagan the proposal from Weavermay is for the demolition of existing buildings and sheds and the construction of one single-storey dual height retail store measuring 1,664 sq m with off licence, an office unit and a two-storey cafe.

In its request to the applicant for further information the local authority has pointed out the National Planning Framework requires that 30% of new housing should be provided in towns. It also asserts that the objective for lands zoned for 'town centre' use as set out in the extended Tullamore Town and Development Plan 2010-2016 requires a mix of primary use (i.e. commercial and retail).

The council contends that the proposal by Weavermay may also be at variance with the requirements of the Urban Development and Building Heights, Guidelines for Planning Authorities, given what is says is "the lack of diversity of uses proposed, the lack of housing and the lack of density."

In particular, the local planning authority says there is a need to support the development of a balance of uses within our urban centres living, working, leisure, rather than focusing on just one or two uses.

The council also seem to be guarding against a scenario where if a larger retailer leaves a premises, as was the case with Tesco, the town is not left with a massive empty building for many years.

The local authority states: "Whenever mix-use multi-storey schemes are not viable in these locations, the substructures of single storey developments should be designed to accommodate future multi-storey development."

The planning authority says it has concerns regarding the proposed elevation of the retail unit with its "single long street elevation resulting in a deadening impact on the street."

It continues: "In 'big box' situations, negative streetscape impacts can be avoided by wrapping the large floor plates with complementary street front units such as hairdressers, cafes, book shops and such like. This is compounded by the false first floor which fails to achieve the desired impact of an organic street frontage."

The planning authority considers that the "proposed signage is more suited to an industrial park or similar type development on the outskirts of a town. A more measured approach should be provided for this important central location with signage indicated on each relevant elevation," it states.

Due to the size of the retail store the planning authority is requesting the developer to explore a "green roof option for a more ecological approach and to create a more sympathetic view for potential future developments," the council advises.

A proposal to provide a taxi drop off and two Go Car parking bays is welcome, however, the council states that the proposal would reduce the footpath at this location which they say is not deemed acceptable. 

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