An Bord Pleanála Ref.: PL87.231058
An Bord Pleanála
Inspector’s Report Development:
Mixed use retail, sports and leisure centre, medical/health centre, demolition of two factory buildings and boundary wall, car parking and all associated works. Former Courtisan Carpets Site, Mill Road, Youghal, County Cork.
Planning Application Planning Authority:
Youghal Town Council
Planning Authority Reg. Ref.:
Galvin Developments Ltd
Type of Application:
Planning Authority Decision:
Grant permission with conditions
Planning Appeal Appellant(s):
Finbarr & Anthony Russell; RGDATA; Ken Brookes & Diarmaid Keogh
Type of Appeal:
Observers: Date of Site Inspection:
17th February 2009
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SITE LOCATION & DESCRIPTION
The irregularly shaped 1.67-hectare brownfield application site is located on the northern side of Mill Road: a single recessed entrance off Mill Road provides access to the site. Mill Road functions as an important distributor road that links the town centre to the northern end of the recently constructed town bypass. Much of the surrounding development is residential, although the site also adjoins a large graveyard and two large retail units are located within a short distance of the site on the other side of the road (i.e. a Lidl supermarket and a Tesco store that is open seven days a week, and from 7 a.m. to midnight on weekdays).
There are two large vacant warehouse/industrial type units on the rear of the site set back about 45-70 metres from the public road: the buildings were formerly occupied by Murray's Kitchens, although the site is also known locally by an earlier occupier (Courtisan Carpets). Both buildings are metal clad and about 6.5 metres in height. The largest is about 110 metres long and 43 metres wide: the stated gross floor area of these two buildings is 5,250 square metres. The overall gradient of the site slopes downwards towards Mill Road: the existing buildings were constructed on a relatively level platform about 5 metres above the road level. The site contours and the very steep embankment at the rear of the site indicate that extensive excavations were previously carried out in order to provide a level platform for the buildings. The Kennyâ€™s Lane housing development to the rear of the site was constructed on land that is approximately 12 metres higher than the level of Mill Road. In general, the existing ground levels on the application site are higher than the ground levels of the adjoining dormer bungalows to the north-west and the ground levels of North Abbey graveyard to the south-east. The graveyard encompasses the site of a national monument (the remains of a church): in the north-western corner of the graveyard immediately adjacent to the application site there is a Garden of Remembrance. The north-eastern site boundary predominantly fronts onto Mill Road (i.e. the site has a 94-metre frontage onto this road) although part of this boundary also backs onto the rear gardens of three houses that also front onto Mill Road. A terrace of houses without offstreet parking (Gallaher's Terrace) is located directly opposite the site on the other side of Mill Road.
The proposal is to demolish the existing buildings and to replace them with a large-scale split-level retail development of 9,900 square metres constructed on three levels (i.e. two floors and a mezzanine level). The development proposal consists of a large anchor retail unit and 12 smaller units, with a splitlevel external deck parking area providing a total of 305 parking spaces. It is proposed that all of the floorspace will be retail, with the exception of two 300-metre units to be used for a sports/leisure centre and a medical/health centre respectively. The gross floor area of the proposed ground-floor (at the Mill Road street level) is c 2,835 square metres, with the first-floor substantially larger (i.e. 5,444 square metres).
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The large shopping centre building is located on the north-western half of the site with the parking area located adjacent to the graveyard. Twin entrances are proposed onto the application site. The service entrance is located near to the north-western site boundary (i.e. adjacent to the dormer bungalow). The access to the customer parking area is located near to the north-eastern site boundary (i.e. adjacent to a bungalow - "Avilla"). Four of the proposed retail units are ground floor units that front onto Mill Road, albeit they are set back between 11-13 metres from the edge of the road. The main anchor unit and the other units are at first-floor level and face south-eastwards onto the upper level of car park.
The main anchor tenant unit is 4,955 square metres in area: it includes 745 square metres at the mezzanine level. The other 12 units vary in size from 100 to 1,526 square metres in floor area. The four units fronting onto Mill Road have irregularly shaped footprints, the largest of which is 1,526 square metres in area: the other units are each around 300 square metres in area. Of the eight upper floor units, six have floor area of 300 square metres (all of these units have mezzanine areas). The other two units are 100 square metres in size. The proposed external finishes to the building include a smooth plastered painted finish to the walls of the ground-floor units facing Mill Road, with timber-clad panels between the shop front windows. Most of the other external finishes are described as being clad with proprietary "Rannila" or "Kalwal" panels. It is proposed to retain the existing common boundary walls with the graveyard and the adjacent houses, and to erect timber sheets fencing above the levels of these walls.
Of the proposed parking spaces, 75 would be semi-underground (at a level 2.9 metres above street level): these spaces are located immediately adjacent to the graveyard and behind two of the Mill Road houses. The main upper parking deck area extends as far as the rear site boundary: it is shown as being 5.9 metres above street level.
The planning application was accompanied by an architectural report and an archaeological impact assessment. The contents of these accompanying reports are summarised below. Archaeological Impact Assessment by Daniel Noonan
The report noted that the modern graveyard had developed on the site of a late 13th century Dominican Priory. Consequently, the potential impact of the proposal relates to any subsurface features or burials associated with the graveyard, and the visual impact on the priory remains. The application site is within the general precinct of the mediaeval town of Youghal: the site is located immediately north of the northern boundary of the priory/graveyard. The Priory was established in 1268 and located immediately outside of the walled town. It was subsequently plundered for its building stone in the 16th century. The modern graveyard was recently extended up to the application site boundary. Cartographic evidence (the Hardiman Map 1602) indicates that the site was agricultural land. Ordnance survey maps dating 1841 to 1938 suggest the application site was still a green field.
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The material that was excavated to provide the building platform for the existing 1960s sheds was deposited in front of those buildings. Eight test trenches were carried out on the site, the longest of which were located parallel to the road and the side boundaries of the site. No finds or features of archaeological significance were uncovered in any of the trenches. Consequently, the report concluded that the proposal could go ahead without any further archaeological testing. It was suggested that the potential visual impact on the Priory remains would be mitigated by the proposal to plant a screen of trees along the graveyard boundary. Architectural report by EML Architects
This report outlined the development in detail, including comments on the proposed finishes. The plot ratio would be 0.59 and the site coverage 38%. It was suggested that from a planning perspective the proposal would make a positive contribution to the town, and that it supported the development planâ€™s objective that shopping should support tourism (as well as it being an essential facility in its own right). In conjunction with the neighbouring stores, the proposal would strengthen/develop the town's status as a commercial, service and employment centre for the region, as well as reducing trips to other competing centres. The report suggested that the architectural quality of the proposal represented a positive move towards improving this "gateway" site. The proposal would strengthen the town's traditional urban fabric and be a harmonious addition to the townscape.
DEVELOPMENT PLAN & POLICY CONSIDERATIONS Youghal Development Plan 2003 (as varied)
The survey section states that shopping is an essential facility to serve tourism: the present mix of shops does not seem to be serving this market. Reference was made to the Lidl store and the Tesco store under appeal. It concluded that there is almost "certainly adequate floorspace for shopping/retail use in Youghal" although "the mix and quality could be improved".
The original (2003) zoning map indicated that the site was zoned for "NRMU" (Non-retail mixed uses), although the relevant plan chapter does not include an objective for this zoning category, and the category is not included in the landuse matrix that suggests appropriate uses within the different zones.
The site was rezoned in a Plan variation that was adopted in October 2007. The site was given the new zoning category of "Retail (restricted) and associated facilities". The accompanying text stated that: "The restricted zoning is to accommodate a retail centre of up to 9,500 square metres which will accommodate up to 2,500 square metres of convenience retailing (food) and up to 7,000 square metres of comparison retailing and bulky goods (non-food). The centre shall accommodate an anchor tenant comprising convenience retailing, comparison retailing, bulky goods and associated facilities of approximately 4,000-6,000 square metres
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in conjunction with between 3-12 units of not less than 300 square metres in size. Where 75% of the maximum number of 12 units is attained, then two of the units will be allowed to be less than the 300 square metres threshold". 3.4
Land to the north and west of the site is zoned "Residential" and the cemetery is zoned "Community facilities". The adjacent residential development on the southern side of Mill Road (Avilla and O'Reilly's Terrace) is zoned "TCMU" (Town centre mixed uses) as is the land on the opposite side of the road including Gallaher's Terrace. The TCMU zoning category is very extensive: it includes land on the north side of Mill Road over 200 metres north-west of the application site boundary, and it extends south-eastwards to the southern side of the town centre nearly 2 kilometres away. This zoning category includes most of the dock area: the stated objective for TCMU zoned land is to improve the existing environment and provide for the development and extension of compatible town centre uses.
Paragraph 4.2.8 of the Plan has twin objectives for the commercial/retail sector, namely to incorporate the joint Cork Retail Strategy, and to facilitate the private sector to provide for the changing shopping, dining and commercial needs of the town, where such proposals comply with the Retail Strategy, the Retail Guidelines and other objectives of the Plan.
The development standards chapter in the Plan includes a section on the town centre that includes a number of criteria/policies against which it is said applications within the TCMU zone will be assessed. The criteria include: •
that all developments must be designed to complement the existing architecture, townscape and character, and that where a new building is inserted into a street, the character and integrity of the street facade is to be maintained; as a general rule flat-roofed buildings and single-storey developments will not be permitted on street facades, and new buildings in existing streets must not be set back from the existing building line except in exceptional circumstances.
The same chapter includes car parking standards that it states will apply to all new development. The parking standard for shopping centres and retail stores is 4.5 spaces for each 100 square metres of gross floor area. The standard for surgeries is 3 spaces per consulting room. There is no obvious standard for leisure centre uses. In cases where adequate on-site provision is not possible or desirable (e.g. in main street shopping situations where it is desirable to maintain a continuous shopping frontage and to avoid piecemeal demolition) financial contributions in lieu will be considered. It is also stated that the Council may allow some dual use of spaces where it is clear that one of the uses is a daytime use and the other an evening one.
The "North Abbey" ruins in the cemetery are designated a protected structure in the Plan (reference No. 9).
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Recorded monuments 3.9
The remains of the late 13th century Dominican Friary is a recorded monument (RMP CO67:3001 & 3002): only the east gable wall and part of the nave and chancel crossover remain. Another recorded monument is located in the vicinity of the site - the remains of the 19th-century gasworks on the other side of Mill Road (RMP CO67:31). Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP) 2001-2020
This Plan has a section on Youghal: it was written before the opening of the bypass. It is noted that due to the hilly context of the town, quite steep hillsides separate the historic centre with potential developable areas. It also notes that new housing will need to be well linked to the centre; otherwise the growth of new retail developments will be encouraged along the bypass, thus undermining the role of the town centre. Cork Strategic Retail Study (2008)
Using a survey base of July 2007, the net sales area for comparison goods in Youghal is given as 5,185 square metres, and the area for convenience goods as 3,865 square metres. It is noted that since 2002 (the date of the last study) Tesco and Lidl have developed stores in edge-of-centre locations: this has stopped some of the convenience-expenditure leakage to Cork City, its suburbs and Dungarvan. While there are no further retail commitments it is noted that there are "opportunity sites â€“ Murrays Kitchensâ€™ site which would be suitable for comparison development, Youghal Shipping site which would be suitable for mixed-use and Sloblands which would be suitable for retail warehousing".
It is noted that rents are lower than in the other "Ring towns" and that the shopping environment, which has benefited from the bypass, is being improved through the heritage regeneration strategy. It is stated that the strong demand for housing in the town, due to the increased accessibility of Cork City, will increase the population and thereby benefit retailers.
The study refers to the retail hierarchy established in the previous study. It differentiates between Cork City Centre, Cork suburbs, the outer metropolitan area of Cork, the Ring towns, and the County towns. Youghal is within the Ring town category along with Mallow, Fermoy, Macroom and Kinsale. Table 6.3 indicates that the overall objective for Youghal and Macroom is "Expansion in line with planned population growth". In paragraph 6.46 it is noted that Youghal (and Macroom) serve well defined catchments and that both towns should improve their town centre retail function by increasing the range and quantum of retail floorspace. It is stated that there are "opportunities in both towns to provide new comparison and retail warehouse development". In Appendix 2 (retail commitments) it is stated that as of the Summer 2007, there are no unimplemented planning commitments in Youghal.
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In Table 6.2 it is estimated that 3,833 to 7,340 square metres of convenience goods floorspace will be required from 2013-2020 for the Ring towns (depending on sales densities). The lower figure represents high-quality operators such as Tesco and Dunnes, whilst the upper figure refers to smaller supermarkets and/or discount operations. In Table 6.1 three options for distributing comparison floorspace in the County are given for the period 2007-2020. In the Ring towns, the aggregate amount of floorspace required varies from 4,978 to 23,352 square metres depending on the assumptions. The assumptions used are market demand, population change, and somewhere in between. At the time of writing, the study stated that the third option was the best approach: this would give a figure of 20,467 square metres for the five Ring towns.
The study has a section on development control: it states that in accordance with the Retail Planning Guidelines, planning authorities should adopt the sequential approach; it defines edge-of-centre sites in line with the Guidelines; and states that applicants for new retail development that the Council considers to be large-scale in relation to existing centres, should demonstrate that proposals would not have a materially adverse impact on the vitality and viability of any existing centre. As part of that assessment, applicants should demonstrate that the proposal "would not cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area". Cork County Development Plan 2009
The Plan refers to the Cork Strategic Retail Study’s retail hierarchy, which states that the objective for Youghal is retail expansion in line with planned population growth. Policy SET 3-7 includes the strategic objective to secure the reopening of the disused rail line from Midleton. Table 5.7 details the additional net retail floorspace requirements from 2007-2020. The additional requirement for the Ring towns is stated to be 5,590 square metres of convenience shopping and 19,200 square metres of comparison shopping. A supporting paragraph states that these quantities are generally to be interpreted as guideline targets. County Waterford - Update and Review of County Retail Strategy – 2006
Chapter 7 assesses competing retailing centres: paragraphs 7.18-19 comment on Youghal (particularly in the context of the competing centres of Dungarvan and Tramore). It is noted that the town is smaller than both Dungarvan and Tramore, although from 1996–2002 its population increased by 11.5% (compared to Dungarvan at 3.9% and Tramore at 27.1%). Based on data from the 2002 Cork Retail Study, the total Youghal floorspace was at least 40% less than the floorspace in Dungarvan. It also notes that since that study was published the 24-hour Tesco and the Lidl stores have opened, which on balance has made Youghal a convenience rather than a comparison shopping centre. It is noted that "Youghal has a very high level of vacant floorspace (18.5%) reflecting that its retail function has eroded over a number of years".
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The Waterford County household survey results reveal that Youghal accounts for about 14% and 3% of West Waterford residents’ main food and top up shopping trips, with the Tesco store being the main destination. The survey did not reveal any clothing or footwear trips to Youghal, although 3% of West Waterford’s bulky goods shopping trips were also carried out in Youghal. The report states that Youghal: "has a relatively poor environment and to date it has not harnessed the potential and attraction of its waterfront or heritage streetscape. It is recognised as having the poorest shopping environment of any of Cork’s towns. The priority set is to deliver substantial new comparison floorspace through the regeneration/redevelopment of existing vacant land and buildings".
NATIONAL GUIDELINES Retail Planning Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2005
The Guidelines state that retail functions in Ireland broadly reflect the four tiers of urban development. The cities of Cork and Waterford are second-tier settlements, although there are no towns within the vicinity of Youghal that are considered to be third-tier towns, although some shopping locations may be regarded as third-tier (e.g. Dungarvan and Midleton). The fourth-tier is considered to comprise of a large number of small towns with populations from 1,500-5,000, most of which provide basic convenience shopping and in some cases lower-order comparison shopping.
A challenge is to establish the optimum location for new retail development that is accessible to all, and of a scale that allows the continued prosperity of traditional town centres. The Guidelines identify five key objectives of retail development (to be regarded of equal weight) including to: • • • •
ensure that plans incorporate clear retail policies and proposals; facilitate a competitive and healthy environment for the retail industry of the future (the planning system should not inhibit competition); promote forms that are easily accessible (particularly by public transport) in locations that encourages multi-purpose trips, and support the continuing role of town centres in order to encourage investment in urban renewal. Town centres should be the preferred location; if no sites are available; edge-of-town-centre locations should be considered.
In paragraphs 27-35 on town centres, the Guidelines emphasise that town centres are the focus of a range of commercial/community activities that result in a mix of often interdependent land uses that contribute to a sense of place and identity. A town centre can be enhanced by introducing appropriate new uses into historic buildings: shopping provision is a key component that can make a major contribution to their vitality and viability. "It is important therefore that they retain retailing as a core function". It will be necessary for planning authorities to adopt a pro-active role in enhancing the vitality and
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viability of their centre(s). "Vitality is a measure of how active and buoyant a centre is, whilst viability refers to the commercial well-being of a town". It is acknowledged that no single indicator on its own can effectively measure the "health" of a town centre, although a series of indicators can assist. Annex 2 gives a list of the most important indicators including diversity of uses; rents; the proportion of vacancies at street level; accessibility and environmental quality. 4.4
Paragraph 55 states that as far as possible new development should be sited in town centres or, if no sites are available, immediately on the edge of town centres (with a presumption against development elsewhere). A full appraisal of the development potential of sites in the town centre and on the edge of the centre should be undertaken. Paragraph 57 states that where: "an application for development complies with the policies and proposals of a development plan in all material respects it should not be necessary for the applicant to provide additional supporting background studies. However, the onus is on an applicant to demonstrate convincingly that his/her proposal does comply closely with the development plan".
Paragraph 58 reiterates that the preferred location for retail development (where it is practicable and viable) is within a town centre. Where it is not possible, consideration can be given to a site on the edge of the town centre so as to encourage one journey serving several purposes. It is stated that: "An edge of centre site, for the purposes of these Guidelines, is taken to be one which is within an easy and convenient walking distance from the primary shopping core of a town centre. The distance considered to be convenient will vary according to local circumstances but typically is unlikely to be much more than 300-400 metres from the edge of the prime shopping area, and less in smaller settlements".
It is stated in paragraph 61 that applicant's lodging planning applications must be adaptable and flexible in appraising potential sites and buildings and should liaise with the planning authority before submitting assessments. Retailers should be prepared to make reasonable compromises and, if possible, adapt standard development formats in order to accommodate schemes on sites that are well located in relation to the sequential approach.
In relation to urban design, applicants should make every effort to integrate successfully new retail development (much of which will be of a scale larger than the existing urban grain) into the townscape of existing centres. In paragraph 63 it is noted that not all centres (particularly small and historic towns) will have sites that are suitable in terms of size, parking, traffic generation or servicing arrangements for large-scale developments in the town centre itself. However, such centres should be of a scale appropriate to the size of the centre in order to minimise the potential for adverse impact.
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Where development proposals would compromise the planning goal to achieve healthy town centres, they should be rejected. In submitting evidence in relation to retail impact, developers should address the following criteria, namely whether the proposal would: • • • • • •
support the long-term strategy for town centres; cause an adverse impact on town centres, either singly or cumulatively with recent developments (or other outstanding planning permissions); diminish the range of activities/services that a town centre can support; cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area that is likely to persist in the long term; ensure a high standard of access by public transport, foot and car, and link effectively with an existing town centre so that there is likely to be commercial synergy.
Paragraphs 73-75 (on assessing applications for large foodstores). Where a proposal for a foodstore development involves the sale of a significant amount of non-food goods, the application drawings should clearly delineate the area to be primarily devoted to convenience goods. A floorspace cap of 3,000 square metres (of the development is outside of Dublin) will apply to the total net retail sales space of superstores. Architectural Heritage Protection – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2004)
Paragraphs 13.8.1-13.8.3 state that even where a new development is located at a distance away from a protected structure, it can affect its character and special interest in a variety of ways. Accordingly, the assessment criteria listed in paragraph 13.7.2 (to be used when assessing proposals for development within attendant grounds) are also considered to be relevant in such cases. The criteria include the following, namely: • • • •
Would the development affect the character of the protected structure? Would the proposed works affect the relationship of the protected structure to its surroundings and attendant grounds? Are there important views of, or from the structure, that could be damaged by the proposed development? Even where the proposed development is at a distance from the protected structure, could it still have an impact? This could include tall or bulky buildings interrupting views. What effect would the scale, height, massing, alignment or materials of a proposed construction have on the protected structure?
PLANNING HISTORY Lidl application
24/99 (PL87.111926): this application proposed to demolish the existing factory on the 0.8-hectare site, and to construct a discount supermarket in its stead. The stated gross floor area was 1,230 square metres; of which 997
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square metres was net sales area. Ancillary development included 160 parking spaces (although the applicant's response submission stated that the number was not based on anticipated demand but on a desire to utilise the site in the most sensible manner). 5.2
The Inspector considered that retail impact, traffic safety & access, and parking were the key planning issues. It was considered that the site was edgeof-centre as it was approximately 400 metres (or 4 minutes) from the town centre. Given the operational requirements of a discount food store (i.e. a high turnover of bulk quantities of goods brought directly into the retailing area on pallets) the location of such a store too close to the town centre had the potential to damage the urban fabric and encourage traffic congestion. Reference was made to the retail impact assessment that described the qualitative weaknesses in the existing retail structure of the town (including the absence of a modern food retail outlet with ample parking): it was stated that the nearest national multiple supermarket was located in Midleton (48 kilometres away). The Board granted permission subject to conditions including reducing the number of parking spaces by 36. Tesco applications
28/01 (PL87.126581): permission was sought to demolish a filling station and a house, and to construct a supermarket and café on a 1.95-hectare site. The stated gross floor area was 3,392 square metres and the net sales area 2,230 square metres (of which 1,347 was convenience goods, 767 comparison goods, and the rest for the checkout area). Ancillary development included 303 parking spaces and the relocation of the stone entrance to the Dandelion Market.
The appellant stated that the net sales floor area of the existing Super Valu supermarkets in the town were 1,021 square metres and 882 square metres (net sales area) respectively, and that there had been significant closures in a number of retail premises in the town centre. The Inspector's report referred to the Lidl application where it was accepted by the previous Inspector that the site was edge-of-centre and it was acknowledged that it had passed the sequential test. The Inspector on this appeal concurred with those findings. However, the proposed parking provision was considered excessive as only 155 spaces were required to meet the development plan standard. However, concern was raised regarding the impact on the setting of a protected structure (the ornamental stone entrance to the Dandelion Market – the Old Jail). Dúchas submitted an observation to the effect that protection of the site included the perimeter walls. The Inspector considered that the planning authority did not appear to have had sufficient regard to the impact on the curtilage of the protected structure.
The Inspector considered that it was unacceptable from an architectural and townscape viewpoint for such a large-scale supermarket (and extensive parking area) to be located here. Consequently, the Inspector recommended refusal on the basis that the scale/design of the supermarket building would be visually obtrusive, that the parking area was in excess of requirements, and
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that the landscaping proposals were inadequate. However, the Board granted permission subject to conditions including a detailed conservation plan for the jail perimeter walls, and a reduction in the number of parking spaces. 5.5
07/58069: permission was recently granted to extend the Tesco store by a further 1,282 square metres (gross floor area). This proposal involves extensions as well as revisions to the internal floor layout of the existing store. This unimplemented permission will increase the overall net sales floorspace for food from 1,347 to 1.494 square metres, and for non-food from 767 to 1,203 square metres.
PLANNING AUTHORITY CONSIDERATIONS AND DECISION Heritage concerns
The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government advised that archaeological monitoring should be imposed as a planning condition if permission is granted. The Council's Conservation Officer stated that she was satisfied that there would be no physical impact on the adjoining monument. However, the visual impact had not been sufficiently addressed. In particular, the trees would not sufficiently screen a building of this scale and height. Accordingly, the applicant should provide a conceptual view of the proposal as viewed from the Abbey, and provide a sufficient buffer zone along the site boundary. The Council's Archaeologist was satisfied that the proposal would not impact on any known subsurface archaeological features, although reservations were expressed regarding the visual impact on the Abbey: it was stated that the remains represented an important landmark building whose significance should not be understated. Request for further information
The Council requested the applicant to submit further information, including the following items, namely: • • • •
• • • • •
submit a conceptual view of the proposed building from North Abbey; provide a "sufficient buffer zone" between the site and the graveyard that is appropriately landscaped; amend the roof elevation to make it more acceptable from the Kenny’s Lane housing (including screening the air-conditioning units); "the raised ‘Kalwal’ section of the main body of the building is to read as a separate vertical element by a means of separation by either a change of material or shadow line indicating the visual break or both"; submit sections to indicate the full extent of the impact on neighbouring properties (particularly the dwellings on Mill Road and the graveyard); submit drawings indicating the relationship of the proposed building to the upper parking level; submit details of all boundary treatments and sound reduction proposals; submit details of the proposed delivery times; the signs should be more integral to the design (rather than applied panels);
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• • • • • • •
the cladding finish to the rear elevation requires modulation; submit details to attenuate surface water; submit further details of the controlled pedestrian crossings; submit shadow drawings to indicate the impact on Avilla and a road safety audit to facilitate the entrance to this dwelling; submit a vehicle swept past analysis for public service vehicles; submit a traffic impact assessment and a traffic management study, and submit a road safety audit for all dwellings within the area.
The applicant's response 6.3
The applicant’s agent provided a detailed response including drawings and photographs. The response included: •
• • • 6.4
a report with photomontages indicating the impact of the proposal. It was noted that the new building would be roughly the same height as the existing buildings although it would be located over 70 metres further away from the graveyard, thus the impact on the Abbey would be reduced; a landscaping plan including tree planting was submitted. The site layout plan indicated that it was intended to retain the existing boundary ditch along the north-western site boundary, and to retain the trees along the upper part of the south-eastern site boundary; some revisions were made to the roof profile and a shadow gap introduced in the raised "Kalwal" section to increase the "perceived verticality of the corner element onto Mill Road". It was stated that while a change of material and a continuation of the transparent element down to plinth level would emphasise the verticality of the building, it would also fragment the three-dimensional nature of it as a whole; a drawing provided more details of the proposed wooden cedar fencing; a drawing of a proposed pedestrian crossing was enclosed along with a right-hand turning lane on Mill Road for traffic turning into the car park; the submitted shadow study indicated that there would not be a significant impact on Avilla.
Subsequently, a handwritten note from an officer of the planning authority recommended permission. Permission was granted subject to 49 planning conditions including the following, namely: • • •
financial contributions to be levied for water, drainage, roads, amenity services and public lighting (conditions 1-5); details of the proposed "Kalwal" or polycarbonate section of the building to be approved prior to the commencement of works (condition 7); "the separation between the existing house at the new site entrance and the upper level parking area is inadequate and needs to be increased" (condition 8); some trees indicated on the plans have no room for growth and others are situated on a steep slope. Details of plant screening and other screening to be agreed with the planning authority (condition 9);
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• • • • • •
all external materials (particularly on the front elevation to be approved by the planning authority). "A more upmarket material or detail to the proposed colour coated steel sheets may be considered" (condition 10); delivery hours shall be between 07.00 to 21.00 hours (condition 11); restrictions on construction operations (conditions 26-30); noise level restrictions for the operational phase (condition 33); all materials and goods to be stored within the building (condition 36); the design, location and layout of parking areas for cars/delivery vehicles shall be to the satisfaction of the planning authority (condition 39); all of the recommendations in the Moylan Consulting Engineers reports are to be implemented at the developer's expense (conditions 47 & 48).
GROUNDS OF APPEAL
Appeals were received from four parties, namely from: • • • •
the occupiers of the adjacent house on Mill Road (Avilla) and one of the adjacent houses to the north-west; the owner of the Super Valu market in North Main Street (represented by MacCabe Durney); RGDATA representing the independent family-owned grocery outlets, and an individual who didn't state his particular interest in the application but gave a town centre address (Diarmaid Keogh).
During the processing of the application by the planning authority a number of individuals submitted identical letters either supporting or opposing the development. The letters of support stated that Dunnes Stores would be welcomed in Youghal. Other letters of objection from local residents were received at the planning application stage. The grounds of appeal and the original objections can be summarised as follows, namely:
Retailing context: the central core of this historic heritage town used to have an active/vibrant environment. Youghal is now suffering a crisis due to dereliction and vacant buildings/sites within its historic core. There are unacceptably high closure rates of businesses within the town centre. One of the appellants provided maps/details of a survey of vacant properties (as of September 2008) stating that vacancy rates in different parts of the town centre now varied between 30 to 44%. Super Valu closed one of its town centre shops with the arrival of Tesco and Lidl: the rate of shop closures has accelerated since these stores opened. Closures and a lack of significant investment do not suggest an optimistic future for the historic core.
The overall planning context: the current draft development plan proposes a niche retail strategy for the historic town centre and the immediately adjacent areas to the east (to encourage property owners/stakeholders to prepare an overall master plan to facilitate the expansion of the old town centre for mixed use development). The recently rezoned application site is not physically located within the retail core area and it is separated from it by housing. The current proposal (in conjunction with the Tesco & Lidl stores) will create a
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retail node of 4,600 square metres with extensive free parking divorced from the town centre. This node would provide for all of the town's shopping needs for the foreseeable future and threaten the sustainability/viability of the existing town centre contrary to the National Guidelines. Retail employment will shift from the town centre to the new development. 7.5
There are sizeable landmark brownfield sites available in the town centre that could stimulate a retail-led regeneration of the town (i.e. Greens Quay area, Dolphins Square area, New Catherine Quay area, redevelopment of Merrick’s department store/Ashe Street). The impetus to renew these sites (including the Couristan factory at Store Street) will be severely compromised if the current proposal goes ahead. The revitalisation of the historic town core and the protection of its viability should be the primary planning objective: development of this site should be secondary to that objective. If permitted, the proposal will encourage further vacancies in the historic core and undermine plan policies to protect the town's historic built environment. Alternative sites of a similar size are available closer to the town core (e.g. the Couristan factory site). The proposal is premature pending the preparation and adoption of the Council's niche retail strategy referred to above.
Strategic retailing context/policy: the retail assessments underpinning the rezoning of the site are fundamentally flawed: •
the floorspace estimates were based on the Cork Retail Strategy that excluded the Tesco store. Since then, the Council has permitted an extension to this store, which is not mentioned in the 2008 strategy; the suggested catchment area (i.e. a 20 minute drive-time isochrome) would include Midleton and it would also approach Dungarvan. This assumption is clearly unrealistic: it would also undermine the retail hierarchy in the County Development Plan; while it is agreed that the retail expenditure growth assumptions in the former 2002 Retail Strategy needed to be revised, the Council's assessment failed to state that the turnover ratios also appear to be underestimates. These ratios are critical in assessing future retail floorspace requirements; the scale of the proposed development is clearly inappropriate as it would be larger than the Dungarvan shopping centre, and two thirds the retail area of the Mahon Point development in Cork City; Youghal's catchment area is severely constrained by its coastal location and the lack of crossing points over the River Blackwater (i.e. it is only bridged at Youghal and Cappoquin - thus a large area of West Waterford is not readily accessible from the town).
The existing/permitted "food" floorspace within the town is about 5,800 square metres: this compares with a figure of around 7,000 square metres for Midleton and 5,250 square metres for Dungarvan. Both of these towns are substantially larger than Youghal and have wealthier hinterlands. The 2008 Cork Strategic Retail Study did not envisage the need for a foodstore on this site.
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The proposal relative to the zoning objective zoning objective: the proposal exceeds the floorspace ceiling. The applicant has designated the additional floorspace as a medical/health centre: the area designated is too small to be viable and the preferred location for such centres is not within a shopping complex. Despite the zoning, it is open to consideration as to when and how this floorspace should be provided. Should the Board decide to grant permission, it is requested that the site should only be developed for comparison goods (in accordance with the advice contained in the recent Cork Strategic Retail Study).
Traffic considerations: the proposal raises traffic and road safety issues, not only in the immediate vicinity of the site, but also in the wider context of the road network that serves the town centre. The applicant's traffic assessments were confined to the immediate vicinity of the site: such a limited scope is not in keeping with the relevant guidelines. All of the "local" traffic will have to travel onto Tallow Street (the street between Mill Road and the town centre): this street is extremely narrow in places and notorious for traffic congestion. The amount of traffic likely to be generated by the proposal will obstruct the flow of traffic throughout the town. The provision of traffic lights will create serious traffic congestion. The proposed right-hand turning lane only serves the car park: there is no provision for delivery vehicles to the service yard, and no assessment has been made as to how safe this junction will be. No provision has been made for heavy goods vehicles to turn within the service compound: vehicles will have to either reverse into, or reverse out of the service yard, causing congestion on the public road. The service yard only supports the main anchor unit; no provision has been made for the remaining units.
The supermarket element of the proposal, when added to the Tesco and Lidl stores, will effectively concentrate food shopping on the northern edge of the town. This area is remote from the southern suburbs and not easily accessible (i.e. there is no high-quality distributor road linking these areas).
Parking provision: based on the current development plan, the parking requirement is 520 parking spaces: the requirement under the draft plan would be higher. Neither of the development plans has an objective to cater for this shortfall within a reasonable walking distance of the application site. Due to this shortfall, the proposal would give rise to traffic congestion and it would be a traffic hazard for road users. In addition, the reduction of parking opportunities for the residents of Gallaher's Terrace and O’Reilly’s Terrace has not been addressed. Reference is made to a report commissioned by Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce (the David Kelly report) that concluded that parking in the town centre was severely under pressure. Should the Board grant permission for the proposal, a contribution should be levied in lieu to reflect the significant shortfall of parking provision that is proposed with this application. On the basis of the Town Council's contribution scheme the amount should be in excess of €1 million.
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Stormwater drainage concerns: there is a general requirement in the town to attenuate stormwater flow where the receiving waters are controlled by tidal sluices. Calculations have not been submitted to demonstrate that the additional flows will not create a problem in this regard.
The overall visual impact: the northern entry to Youghal is dominated by the two supermarkets and their surface car parks. The Tesco development is mitigated to an extent by the retention of the decorative stone entrance (as decreed by the Board). The proposed simplistic architecture and industrialstyle finish to the proposed warehouse-style building is totally inappropriate at this northern entry point into this historic town. While the architecture of the Tesco and Lidl buildings is uninspiring, they are single-storey and set back the good distance from the road. The proposed building has a ridge height of 17.6 metres (i.e. the equivalent height of a traditional five-storey dwelling) and it is positioned onto an elevated site, which only highlights the limitations of the design. The proposal would reinforce the disparate and incoherent "architectural mishmash" at the entry to the town. The design and external finishes have little regard to the context or setting of the site within a heritage town of national importance. Timber faĂ§ades and "Kalwal" finishes are unsuitable for a seaside area in terms of ongoing repair/maintenance.
Impact on the Abbey remains: the applicantâ€™s archaeological impact report expressed concerns regarding the visual impact, although it was stated that tree planting proposals along the perimeter would mitigate the impact. However, the submitted drawings only suggest the retention of the existing trees: these trees would have a minimal screening effect. The photos demonstrate that the proposal would have a significant adverse visual impact on the setting of the Abbey and the Garden of Remembrance. The potential for additional planting around the Garden of Remembrance is non-existent. The viability of planting/maintaining trees on the steep slopes of the application site boundaries is questioned. The photomontages suggest that views would have a sylvan character, whereas background views would be dominated by the flank walls of a semi-industrial building with associated signage, while the foreground views would be diminished by the wooden perimeter fencing. The submitted sections indicate that it would not be possible to provide any meaningful buffer zone between the basement car park and the graveyard. In its request for further information the Council's stipulated the requirement for a proper buffer zone, but none was proposed. The locations of the cross sections do not adequately reflect the relationship between the proposed development and the neighbouring properties. The photomontages do not adequately show the impact of the parking area (i.e. the upper parking level is at 5.9 metres with timber fencing above that level, whereas the adjoining Garden of Remembrance is recorded at 3.2 metres).
Impact on residential amenity: the various appellants state that there would be an adverse impact in terms of residential amenity for all of the adjoining houses. It is noted that shadow diagrams were only required for Avilla; and that developers of other commercial/residential developments are expected to provide traditional forms of boundaries (i.e. walls of traditional Youghal stone), whereas cheap timber screening has been accepted here.
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It is stated that the proposal would have the following negative impacts on residential amenity, namely: •
Impact on the Kenny’s Lane development: there will be an impact in terms of the service areas on the roof. Noise and odour nuisance from the mechanical systems will impact on the adjacent social housing estate: these problems have not been addressed. Impact on Avilla: the two-storey deck car park would be located against the rear garden wall, and the entrance to the car park would be located adjacent to the front gate of the house. The boundaries will be at a high level relative to the house: timber screens and sketchy landscape proposals do not reassure the appellants. The submitted drawings do not include a section through Avilla: the height of the barrier at the back of the house will be 5.3 metres. Overshadowing and loss of sunlight will be a problem. The submitted shadow drawings are difficult to read and interpret: any loss of light or sunlight would be significant to the appellants. The drawings indicate a significant impact on the rear garden & back of the house at certain times of the year. Overlooking and noise would be a problem. Construction works may damage the existing boundary trees. Notwithstanding the traffic engineer's report, locating a major shopping centre entrance next to the driveway of a house is at the very least dangerous. The house entrance will be located in the middle of a busy signalised T-junction: it would be difficult to use the house driveway without incurring safety risks. The north-western boundary wall of the house will restrict visibility. Impact on the houses to the north-west: the proposed loading bay would encroach on privacy and damage the joint stone boundary wall. The boundary should be of a sufficient height (with acoustic screening). Restrictions on deliveries should be imposed: the latest deliveries should be before 9 p.m.
RESPONSES The planning authority response
The site is within easy walking distance of the town's traditional shopping street (i.e. Mill Road is an extension of North Main Street) although it is separated from it visually and psychologically. The proposal would form an "out-of-town" retailing cluster with the Tesco/Lidl stores. The bulk of the building has been modulated to reduce in scale at the edges of the site. The design takes account of the sloping site, allowing for retail uses along the street frontage. It is often difficult in historic towns for developers to assemble sites suitable for a department store or large supermarket, but unless department stores can be accommodated in the town people will inevitably travel out of the area. In the short-term this proposal might draw retail spending out of the historic core, although this spending would not be lost to the town per se. In the long-term, the public realm improvements in the town will encourage retailing in the historic core. Planning conditions provided for a
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separation between the upper-storey parking area and Avilla, along with adequate screen planting along the other boundaries. The applicant’s response 8.2
This submission reiterates much of the information previously forwarded to the planning authority. It is stated that: • • • • • • •
the proposal will introduce an urban scale building at the entrance to the town in place of abandoned dilapidated buildings; conditions 8 & 9 will deal with boundary treatment issues. Revised drawings are enclosed that provide for a 3-metre wide planting zone; the rezoning of the site confirms the need for a development of this scale; units of 300 square metre could not easily be provided in the town; under the CASP Plan, the population will double by 2020 and sustain a renewed commuter rail service to Cork and the national rail system; the site is centrally located in terms of an extension to the town centre; the Retailing Guidelines anticipate that some development will take place in out-of-centre locations. The proposal meets the first four objectives in the Guidelines and complies with paragraphs 55 & 57. The sequential approach only needs to be addressed where the proposed development is not in compliance with the development plan. Irrespective of this, there are no other suitable sites in close proximity to the town centre that could accommodate the nature/scale of the proposal; the engineering reports demonstrated that there is no traffic hazard or public safety issues resulting from the proposal. The design solution for the signal controlled junction at the customer entrance is safe; traffic count surveys suggests that the existing traffic flows on Mill Road are not excessive, and that outside of peak hours it may be possible to reverse into the Avilla driveway (or if this is not possible cars could reverse into the yellow box). The appellants must reverse into the space at the moment: a signalised junction would this manoeuvre far safer; the proposed parking layout represents an overprovision, as one unit of parking demand would be expected to serve visitors to more than one destination within the development; the site is within walking distance of the majority of the town’s population; the waterside site suggested by the appellant is unsuitable (i.e. it is a small, narrow site with no attendant lands for parking, service yards, or easy customer access by car). The Youghal Shipping site is not defunct or for sale (a letter from the company confirms this); various reasons have led to the vacancy rates in the town. The earlier strategic retailing study (prior to Tesco and Lidl) referred to poor trading conditions and the loss of a critical retail mass in the town the Town Council did not consider the parking proposal deficient; the Waterford Retail Strategy (which represents an independent perspective) stated that the Tesco and Lidl stores had facilitated the retention of the core retail function of the town and stopped leakages from the hinterland, and
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Avilla is a bungalow with a walled garden and tall evergreen trees. The revised drawings will protect amenity. The shadow diagrams submitted by the appellant do not consider the existing trees.
Third party responses 8.3
A response from MacCabe Durney reiterated that they were not contesting the planning authorityâ€™s procedures in rezoning the site; rather the contention is that there are more suitable sites within the town (with town centre zoning) that would better meet the provisions of the Retailing Guidelines (including the sequential test). It is reiterated that a three or four-storey development of the Couristan site in the dock area (allied to a multi-storey and underground car park) could provide the quantum of development proposed. The agent who submitted the response for the applicant also co-authored the current Cork Strategic Retail Study: this study referred to the application site as suitable for comparison retailing, but it did not identify it as an appropriate location for convenience shopping. If the draft plan parking standard is used the proposal is deficient by 289 parking spaces. Reference is made to a Board decision in Cashel for an equally industrial-type structure at the entrance to the settlement, where one of the refusal reasons referred to the undistinguished layout and industrial-type design. The proposal compromises the potential for a highquality gateway entrance to the town. Reference is also made to a recent oral hearing for a major shopping centre at North-side in Dublin where the Board requested the applicant to review its retail impact statement in the light of the prevailing economic outlook. It is suggested that due to the current economic climate, the proposal if permitted, would effectively mop up the demand for retailing development for a significantly longer period than envisaged, which would compromise the renewal of more appropriately located sites within the historic core of the town.
A response from RGDATA reiterates that the issue at stake is not the rezoning of the site, but that there are other more appropriate town centre sites that should be developed prior to edge-of-town sites, notwithstanding the inherent difficulties of developing the existing town centre sites.
The response from Diarmaid Keogh states that the applicant has not addressed concerns relating to the loading bays, parking and road safety. An independent safety assessment and traffic management report should be commissioned prior to granting the proposal. The use of vernacular architecture would be a more appropriate design solution for this gateway site. It is noted that Youghal has RAPID status: within the last seven years it has experienced severe job losses with the loss of five factories. These losses have had a catastrophic effect on the retail valuations in the town: confidence amongst the town traders is extremely low and property values have fallen. If the proposal is permitted, more than 70% of the retail area of the town will be located on Mill Road.
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The response from the occupiers of Avilla stated that the applicant’s response submission included revised drawings that would impact on the appellants’ property. The revised proposal (in suggested compliance with condition 8) would only set back the upper parking deck by 11 metres: this revision would remove overshadowing as an issue. However, overlooking would still be a problem. The upper deck would become an elevated viewing gallery over the appellants’ property. The Residential Density Guidelines establish the principle of a 22-metre separation distance between opposing houses. As this is a context where a public area overlooks the rear of the house, a substantially larger separation distance is appropriate here. The existing trees within the appellant's rear garden should not be included within any sun path analysis, as they could be removed by the appellants at any time. It is also reiterated that the main vehicular entrance is located too close to the appellants’ driveway. It should be relocated elsewhere given the extent of the road frontage of the site. Drawings are enclosed to illustrate the appellants’ concerns regarding how the signalised junction would operate. At present the appellants reverse into the driveway: the current levels of traffic facilitate this manoeuvre. Due to the location of the shopping centre entrance and the traffic lights, it would not be possible to exit safely from the driveway in the future.
Having visited the site, reviewed the documentation on this appeal file, and considered the various relevant planning policy documents, I would suggest that the main planning issues relate to the following, namely: • • • • •
policy issues (including strategic and national policy) as well as the development plan; issues relating to parking, access and traffic; the overall visual impact of the proposal including its design; heritage interests, and the impact on residential amenity, and
Policy considerations: the application site was recently rezoned to facilitate the development of a shopping centre. The proposal generally conforms to the very detailed zoning objective for the site, although it should be noted that the proposed floorspace exceeds the maximum level by 400 square metres, and it is not clear how much of the floorspace would be devoted to convenience goods. I note that the planning authority did not include a condition to restrict the amount of convenience goods sales in line with the zoning objective. Accordingly, should the Board grant permission, I would suggest that this element be either excluded or limited in area. The proposed sports/leisure centre and the medical/health centre are not specifically included or excluded by the zoning objective either, although I would have no objection to their inclusion as the units are relatively small. I note that one of the appellants states that 300 square metres is too small to accommodate a medical unit. This is true to the extent that the Guidance Document for Primary Care Developments (Health Service Executive 2008) states that the minimum required floorspace for a primary care team would be more than double this
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figure. However, there are other medical-type uses that these days are typically located in shopping centres including alternative therapy clinics. 9.3
Notwithstanding the proposalâ€™s general conformity with the zoning objective, I would suggest that it does not meet some of the more detailed development plan policies (e.g. on parking and design), although I have dealt with these issues in more detail in the relevant sections of my report below. In addition to the zoning and development control policies, the plan also has twin objectives for retail/commercial developments (i.e. that they should accord with the provisions of the strategic retail strategy and the national guidelines). I have considered the extent to which the proposal meets these objectives below.
The Cork Strategic Retail Study 2008 envisaged that the town should improve its town centre retail function by increasing the range and quantum of retail floorspace (in line with population growth). The Study regarded the current application site as suitable for comparison goods: no reference was made to convenience goods sales. Accordingly, it would be reasonable to argue that the convenience goods element of the proposal does not accord with the Strategic Retail Study. The Study reiterates many of the policies of the national guidelines including the need for a sequential approach, the definition of edge-of-centre locations, the onus on developers to demonstrate that a proposal will not have a materially adverse impact on any existing centre, and that applicants should demonstrate that the proposal would not cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area. In this regard, I note that the applicant did not provide any justification for the choice of the current site and/or provide any information with which the site could be assessed in terms of the sequential approach. The applicant's agent has suggested in his response that the sequential approach does not need to be addressed as the proposal is in compliance with the development plan. I would take issue with this opinion as I consider that the proposal does not meet the twin objectives for retail/commercial developments referred to above, and parking provision is well below the development plan standard. Therefore, the proposal is not in compliance with the development plan per se.
The Inspector who reported on the original Lidl application considered that it was an edge-of-centre site as it was approximately 400 metres or four minutes walking distance away from the town centre. The subsequent Inspector who reported on the original Tesco application concurred with this viewpoint. However, it would appear from that Inspector's report that this conclusion was based principally on the previous Inspectorâ€™s acceptance that the Lidl site (which is further way from the town centre) was an edge-of-centre site. Therefore, logically the Tesco site must also be considered an edge-of-centre site as it is closer to the town centre.
Having walked from the town centre to the site, I would suggest that the edge of the prime shopping area of the town is roughly around the post office building on North Main Street (i.e. around 600 metres from the main car park entrance to the application site). There are a dozen or so typical retail units in operation between the post office and the application site, but I would not regard any of those shops as being located within the primary retailing core or
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the town centre proper. Accordingly, in my opinion the current application site cannot be considered to be an edge-of-centre site on the basis of the definitions contained within the Cork Strategic Retailing Study and the national guidelines. It is interesting to note that in the planning authorityâ€™s response the application site is referred to as being within a short distance of the other "out-of-town" retail centres (NB the site was not referred to as being edge-ofcentre). The difference between my assessment and the previous Inspectors may be due in part to the further contraction of retail uses in the town centre since those reports were written. Certainly the number of vacant shops within the town is significant: both the Cork and Waterford retailing studies confirm significant vacancy rates. In addition, the Cork Strategic Retailing Study refers to the low rents in the town, which is often a surrogate measure for vacancy rates and/or lack of demand for retailing floorspace. In any event, I would suggest that in the context of a small town like Youghal it is inappropriate to identify a site as being an edge-of-centre site when it is well beyond the maximum range stipulated in the Guidelines. 9.7
It is also important to consider the cumulative impact of the current proposal along with the existing and permitted Tesco/Lidl developments, as this local area has already become an important retailing node in its own right. It should be noted that the current proposal is nearly 70% larger in gross floorspace terms than the existing gross floorspace of both the Lidl and Tesco stores together (including the proposed extension). I have attempted below to estimate the cumulative net floorspace of the Mill Road shopping node and to compare it with the current floorspace in the town and surrounding settlements.
In order to provide an indication of the scale of the current proposal relative to the existing quantum of development in Youghal and the surrounding towns, in the above table I have had to make a number of assumptions regarding net sales, as the plans and drawings submitted with this application only give gross figures, and the convenience floorspace element within the anchor unit (and possibly some of the smaller units) are not specified. Accordingly, I have used the net/gross floorspace ratios suggested in paragraph 6.120 of the current Cork Strategic Retail Study. This study suggests an 80% ratio for purpose-built modern comparison shops. The study recommends a ratio of 6570% for department stores and a lower figure of 65% for large convenience goods stores. Since the anchor unit is likely to combine both uses, I have used the lower figure of 65%. For the purpose of this analysis I have also assumed that the ratio of convenience to comparisons goods will be one third to twothirds. I have also excluded the proposed medical and leisure units from this analysis, and assumed that none of the smaller units would sell convenience goods. The base figures quoted for Youghal and the other Cork towns are from the 2007 survey data from the current strategic study. The Dungarvan figure is taken from the County Waterford study with a survey date of 2005. Since the Cork study appears to have excluded the Tesco extension permission (as the study states that there are no unimplemented permissions in the town) I have also included this extension in the Mill Road figures.
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Youghal (2007) Midleton (2007) Fermoy (2007) Dungarvan (2005) Youghal estimate (including the current proposal & Tesco extension ) Mill Road (current & proposed)
Convenience goods net floorspace in square metres 3,870 5,390 1,420 6,420 5,100
Comparison goods net floorspace in square metres 5,190 7,450 4,860 10,370 9,540
If the unimplemented Tesco extension is added to the floorspace of the current proposal, the additional convenience goods floorspace represented by these two developments would be equivalent to about a third of the estimated additional convenience goods floorspace required for all five of the Ring towns for the period 2013-2020, and over a fifth of the comparison goods floorspace for the same towns over a longer period of 2007-2020. The latter figure is based on the third option in the Cork Strategic Retailing Study (see paragraphs 3.14 of this report). If the lowest option for comparison goods is used, the two developments would be equivalent to nearly 90% of the comparison goods requirement for the entire Ring towns over the 2007-2020 varied. These figures suggest that the proposed development is likely to account for most of the retailing investment in the town for some time, particularly in the light of the current economic downturn. These figures also emphasise the scale of the current proposal in terms of the surrounding towns, including the fact that the floorspace in Youghal would be practically the same as the towns of Dungarvan and Midleton, which the national guidelines considered to be higher tier centres in the retailing hierarchy.
The figures also demonstrate the extent to which the Mill Road area would in effect become the primary shopping area for the town. In percentage terms, this area would account for about 54% of the comparison goods floorspace and 70% of the convenience goods floorspace in Youghal (NB these percentages relate to the entire town not just the town centre). These estimated figures implicitly assume that no further vacancies would result as a consequence of the development of the current proposal. This assumption is unlikely to be a viable one as the centre of gravity for the town's shopping is likely to move northwards towards Mill Road. Free parking at the Lidl, Tesco and Dunnesâ€™ developments would also be likely to encourage this trend because of a lack of available parking in the town centre. Note that on the day I visited the site in a winter month, there were very few available parking spaces in primary shopping core area or within the wider area subject to parking control. Permitting this application would arguably make it very difficult for the planning authority to resist further retailing applications in the Mill Road area in the future due both to the precedent that a permission would create, but also due to the very extensive town centre land-use zoning in the Mill Road area.
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I have noted above that in my view the applicant should have provided a detailed analysis of alternative town centre and edge-of-centre sites in line with the national guidelines. The applicant's agent has commented on some of the alternative sites suggested by the appellants but this analysis is cursory and reactive. It is not appropriate in this report for me to give an assessment of the other sites. However, one of the sites quoted by the appellants in the town centre proper had a for sale sign up on the day I visited the town, so that it would appear that this site would be available for development. The applicant's agent has dismissed this site on the basis of its size (c 0.65 hectares) and its shape. However, the immediately adjacent site has been redeveloped at a high density (i.e. seven main floors with velux windows in the roof); therefore, a relatively substantial multi-storey retail development with car parking would appear to be a possibility for this site.
The retail planning guidelines clearly state that where development proposals would compromise the planning goal to achieve a healthy town centre they should be rejected. In my view the proposal would compromise this planning goal within Youghal town centre as it is already experiencing poor "health" in terms of the relevant indicators in the guidelines. In my view the proposal is likely to exacerbate these trends and cause an adverse impact on the town centre as a result of its cumulative impact with the other recently developed retailing stores on Mill Road, and cause a further increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area of the town centre that is likely to persist in the long term as the development would use up a considerable proportion (if not all) of the retail requirements (and investment) for the town that is forecast in the strategic retailing study for the County. This lack of investment would also prejudice the planning authority's objective to use retail investment in the town centre to encourage urban renewal.
Parking, access and traffic issues: on the basis of the development plan’s parking standards (i.e. using the retail standard for the whole development) the proposal would require 445 parking spaces, whereas only 305 spaces were originally proposed. The revised drawings submitted with the applicant's response shows a reduction of 14 parking spaces, which suggests a shortfall of 154 spaces. I do not accept the applicant's agent’s suggestion that the proposed parking levels represent an overprovision of parking spaces, or that dual use of spaces should be considered. Indeed, the development plan policy states that the Council may allow some dual use where it is clear that one of the uses is a daytime use and the other an evening one. The applicant has not provided any evidence to suggest that there should be any discounting based on this policy. I note one of the appellant’s comments regarding the payment of contributions in lieu of the deficient number of spaces. However, I would suggest that paying such a contribution would be contrary to plan policy. The clear intent of that policy relates to situations in the town centre where it is desirable to maintain a continuous shopping frontage: the application site patently does not fit into that category. In addition, the development plan does not include any proposals to provide any public parking spaces within the vicinity of the site; therefore, it would be unreasonable to expect the applicant to contribute to parking spaces that would have no benefit to the development.
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It would be undesirable and unrealistic to assume that the deficit could be made up by on-street parking in the vicinity of the site in terms of safety and/or the capacity of the road to accommodate more on-street parking. There is a double yellow line outside of the Lidl entrance on both sides of the road, and visibility is restricted in the direction of the town centre by the horizontal alignment of the road and the roadside hedging. The Gallaher's Terrace houses to the east of the Lidl store have no off-street parking spaces (at either the front or rear of the houses), and it would not be desirable to encourage further on-street parking on northern side of the road between the main entrances to the Lidl and Tesco stores, which are only about 170 metres apart. On-street parking on the other (southern) side of the road would be equally problematic. The O'Reillyâ€™s Terrace houses front onto the section of the road between the proposed entrance to the new shopping centre and the existing Tesco entrance (NB these two entrances would be less than 100 metres apart): encouraging more roadside parking here would reduce the sightlines for drivers leaving the customer car park and/or the servicing area.
It could be argued that nearly 80% of the parking deficit could be made up by pooling the spaces of the three developments together (i.e. on the basis of the development plan parking standards I would estimate that together the other two stores have about 120 spaces in excess of their requirements). However, this theoretical pooling would be neither desirable nor practical. It would not be desirable as it would encourage considerable pedestrian flows across Mill Road, and it would not be practical to permit the proposal on this basis as the applicant has not provided any legal agreements to that effect, and it would be potentially problematic to try to enforce such agreements in any case.
While the proposal would undoubtedly increase traffic flows in the vicinity, these increases should be seen in the context that overall flows will have doubtless decreased since the opening of the bypass. Due to the road network and topography of Youghal, the proposal is likely to attract additional traffic through the town (as driving through the town centre would be the most direct route for most of the residents of Youghal). However, potential customers travelling from further afield are likely to use the bypass and approach the site from the north, rather than drive through the town.
The Moylan report (the "Design response to the Road Safety Audit") that was submitted by the applicant as part of the request for further information, effectively highlights some of the issues I have noted above. For instance, it advocates double yellow lines and no parking signs east of the access to the customer car park to improve visibility for vehicle drivers at the proposed signalised junction. One of the issues it does not properly highlight is the adequacy of the delivery proposals to the site. The appellants are correct in stating that the delivery yard adjacent to the northern site boundary only appears to provide access to the main anchor unit. Accordingly, there is no clear indication as to how the other units would be serviced. The Moylan report states that there is some concern regarding left turning movements into and out of the main site access (i.e. the customer car park). However, it states that no goods vehicles will use this access as it is intended for private car access only. Accordingly, I assume that it is proposed to use the "Plaza" area
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between the Mill Road footpath and the proposed shop units 2-5 to park delivery vehicles. It is not clear from the submitted drawings what the size of these delivery vehicles would be or whether they would reverse into the Plaza area or not. 9.18
The planning authority has restricted delivery hours to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (condition 11). Therefore, unless deliveries were restricted to the hours when shopping centre was closed (i.e. I assume between 7 and 9 in the morning) there would be potential conflicts in terms of both pedestrians and delivery vehicles using the Plaza area, irrespective of the proposed use of bollards between the roadside pavement and the Plaza. Pedestrians using the Lidl car park opposite would certainly walk by or through this Plaza area. The submitted swept path analysis to the service yard indicates that articulated delivery vehicles leaving the yard would reverse back into the same Plaza area in front of some of the shop units. If another delivery vehicle was already parked in that area, such a reversing manoeuvre would clearly not be possible. Given the size of the proposed development and the need to restrict delivery hours (due to the proximity of the adjacent houses - particularly the house near the service yard), it is likely that this event would be a regular occurrence. As a result, articulated vehicles would be forced to wait until the other vehicle moved, and/or the vehicle would have to reverse out on to Mill Road.
I note that concerns of the occupants of Avilla regarding access to their driveway. It should be noted that this house has two driveways, although the signalised junction would affect access to both. I do not consider that the impact would be as bleak as suggested by the appellants. The Moylan report recommended that the signal timings should be adjusted to accommodate a brief "all red stage" to facilitate access to Avilla: this requirement could be incorporated into a planning condition.
The visual impact of the proposal: while the existing development on the site is visually very unattractive, it is not that visible when one drives along Mill Road (in either direction) as the buildings are set well back from the road frontage. The submitted perspective drawings are of little help in assessing the visual impact as they lack context (i.e. they do not show any of the adjacent buildings). The contiguous Mill Road elevation drawing is a little misleading as it implicitly gives the impression that there is no building behind the service yard. The proposed building maybe an urban-scale structure as suggested by the appellant's architect, but I would agree with the appellants that the architecture is distinctly industrial in nature. The building would be very prominent in the streetscape and dwarf the residential buildings on either side. It would not in my opinion provide an attractive gateway feature for the town; neither would the building integrate successfully into the townscape as required by the retailing guidelines.
The site-specific zoning objective for the site does not include any visual guidance for developing the site. However, I would suggest that the assessment criteria for new buildings in the ubiquitous TCMU zone are arguably relevant here for two reasons. Firstly, the criteria go back to first principles of design, and secondly, the criteria would apply to any
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development proposals on the opposite side of the road and/or to the east of the site. The assessment criteria include the reasonable objectives of not permitting flat-roofed buildings (as a general rule) and of not setting back new buildings from the existing street frontage (except in exceptional circumstances). I would suggest that if the current building was proposed on land zoned TCMU; it would clearly fail to meet the aspirations of the detailed assessment criteria for that zone. There is little or no scope to amend the proposal in any significant way without totally redrawing it and having a knock-on effect to other aspects of the proposal (i.e. moving the building forward would compromise the already basic delivery access to the site and unless the height of the building was severely reduced the proposal would still dwarf the adjacent residential buildings on either side). 9.22
Heritage interests: the application site is outside of the mediaeval town of Youghal but relatively nearby to the 13th century priory remains in the adjoining graveyard. The remains are listed as a protected structure and also protected as a national monument. No finds or features of archaeological significance were found in the test trenches on-site. This finding is not unsurprising given the extensive excavation work that was previously carried out on-site to provide the level building platform for the current buildings. In terms of any archaeological interest, archaeological monitoring of building works should suffice.
The key issue with regard to heritage is the visual impact of the proposal on the setting of the church remains: at its nearest point the church is about 115 metres away from the application site boundary and it is only separated from the application site by the graveyard and the stone boundary wall. I note that the Council's Archaeologist rightly stated that the remains represent an important landmark building whose significance should not be understated. It is true to say that the existing industrial buildings on the site are not attractive. However, the visual impact of these buildings is reduced to some extent by their location and orientation on the site (i.e. they are located at the back of the site, oriented parallel to the rear boundary and hidden to some degree by the embankment on two sides of the buildings) and the existing trees near the graveyard boundary. The front part of the application site is currently relatively open, with the grassy banks permitting relatively open views to the north-west including the hills beyond. The computer-generated view looking from the front of the shopping centre looking south-east towards the Abbey that was submitted by the applicant as part of the request for further information, highlights how visible the Abbey would be from the site, but the picture is misleading as it includes some trees in the graveyard area that do not exist.
While the nearest part of the proposed building would be about 70 to 80 metres further away from the site boundary (compared to the existing industrial buildings), the proposed shopping centre building would be orientated across the site parallel to the side boundary. For the most part the shopping centre building would be roughly equal to the height of the existing industrial buildings, although in part it would be about 2 metres higher. As a consequence, the building would be more visually obtrusive than the current
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buildings; it would block the views of the hillside beyond and the elevation visible from the graveyard would be of a 100-metre plus long, flat-roofed industrial-type building with eight advertising panels. 9.25
From the church remains, the land slopes gently down to the north-west (i.e. down towards the application site boundary). There is an existing stone boundary wall along this joint boundary (from 1.5 to 1.8 metres high) that acts as a retaining wall. The grassy bank on the application site (in front of the existing buildings) is roughly at the same level or even slightly above the top of this wall. As well as sloping down towards the north-west, the land gradient in the graveyard adjacent to the wall also slopes downwards towards the Garden of Remembrance (to the north). Accordingly, one of the critical considerations in visual terms is the level of the proposed parking area, relative to the existing levels in the graveyard. The applicant submitted a topographical survey map with the application, which noted existing levels across the site and in the graveyard, although some of the levels are difficult to read. However, the line of spot heights in the graveyard that are located about 5 to 15 metres away from the joint boundary, indicate that the proposed parking level would be between 0.15 to 3 metres above the level of the graveyard, with the most significant level difference being near the Garden of Remembrance. The applicant has provided a section across this boundary (Section E-E on drawing 2912-P-2.2). This section was drawn at a point where the difference in levels at the boundary would only be about 1 metre. South of this section there would need to be a sloping earth bank between the car park structure and the boundary wall.
In order to screen the parking area from the graveyard/church remains, it is proposed to construct a partially open 1.2-metre high fence/barrier just inside the boundary wall, consisting of vertical slats of cedar wood about 120 millimetres wide held together by PVC coated (or equivalent) metal supports and handrail. The section drawing referred to above shows a distance of less than 2 metres between the boundary wall and the parking area. The revised plans submitted to the Board (with the applicantâ€™s response submission) indicated that the separation distance between the wall and the parking area would be increased to 3 metres and the level of the upper parking area would be reduced by 300 millimetres. The drawings also propose the planting of a line of trees between the wall and the parking area. Two new sections across this boundary are also submitted: the sections indicate that the difference in levels between the graveyard and the car park at these locations would be 0.5 metres and 2.3 metres respectively.
The Architectural Heritage Guidelines acknowledge that if a development is located at a distance away from a protected structure it can affect its character and special interest in a number of ways. I would suggest that as a result of the buildingâ€™s scale, height, massing and orientation, it would have a significantly adverse visual impact on the setting and surroundings of the church, contrary to the provisions of the Guidelines. As the church remains appear to be at a level above the proposed car park, visitors to the church remains (and the graveyard) would see the minimal cedar fence separating an extensive parking area set against the backdrop of a poorly designed,
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industrially-clad shopping centre building. The applicant’s amended proposal to lower the parking deck level and to increase the separation distance between the deck and the wall are insignificant in the context of the overall visual impact of the proposal. I would suggest that any development of this application site would require any parking areas to be significantly lowered and that a substantial landscaped buffer zone should be required along this joint boundary. 9.28
Impact on residential amenity: the impact on the adjoining Kenny's Lane development to the south-west would be reasonably negligible because of the separation distances involved (i.e. the majority of the houses would be at least 30 metres away from the back of the shopping centre building). The relative differences in levels would also screen the development on these houses (i.e. for the most part the shopping centre building would be below the level of the public road in front of the Kenny’s Lane houses. The submitted drawing 2912P-2.1 (revision A) provides a good indication of the differences in these levels. The air handling units would be around 40 metres away from the site boundary, although the air-conditioning fences would be much closer (i.e. around 10 metres away from the boundary). Nevertheless, as the site is below these houses and the prevailing winds would not blow in the direction of these houses, there should not be any significant loss of amenity provided that adequate sound levels and emissions levels are set (and enforced) by way of planning conditions.
The adjoining bungalow that fronts onto Mill Road (Avilla) has a very small rear garden in terms of its depth (i.e. 4.5 to 9 metres). The joint boundary to the rear is well screened by a line of conifers: these trees must severely restrict the amount of direct sunlight received at the back of the house and garden due to the bungalow’s orientation. The shadow diagrams submitted by the applicant indicate that there would be some impact in terms of overshadowing, although I would suggest that it would be unreasonable to dwell on the potential overshadowing impact bearing in mind the existence of these trees. Having said that, I consider that the proposal would have a substantial and negative impact in terms of residential amenity on this house due to the location of the main car park access road and the deck car park so close to the rear boundary. It should be noted that the main car park access road and junction would be located within a few metres of the side boundary of this house, and that the ramp to the lower parking deck would be less than 8 metres of the back of the house, and the upper deck parking area would only be 11 metres away (as measured from the revised drawings submitted to the Board). Note that the upper deck parking would be roughly level with the eaves of the bungalow. The proposed low-level cedar boundary fencing would have little effect in deterring any overlooking of the house. I also note that despite the proximity of the access road, ramp and parking areas, it appears that the applicant has not proposed any acoustic screening around this house (and none was suggested in the conditions by the planning authority).
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The adjoining dormer bungalows to the north-west are constructed on lower ground levels than the application site, although the applicant did not submit any shadow diagrams for these houses. Currently, the ground levels on the application site are roughly at the eaves levels of these two bungalows. Both houses have been built relatively close to the joint boundary: the rear of the bungalow nearest Mill Road is within 5 to 6.5 metres of the boundary, and the bungalow behind it about 6 to 13 metres away. The Mill Road contiguous elevation drawing (2912-P-2.1 revision A) gives some indication of the impact of the proposal on the bungalow nearest the road, although this drawing is somewhat misleading as it does not clearly indicate the proposed shopping centre wall at the back of the proposed service yard. Another drawing (2912P-3.1 revision A) provides a better indication of the impact of the proposal on that bungalow. While the proposed building would not be unduly overbearing on that bungalow in visual terms, the bungalow would be located immediately adjacent to the proposed service yard. Accordingly, due to the limited separation distance between the back of the bungalow and that yard, noise from deliveries would potentially be a serious problem (particularly the tonal noise from reversing articulated vehicles). I note that the applicant has proposed 5-metre high acoustic timber screening along this boundary, although it is not immediately apparent how far back this screening would go. While appropriate screening would obviously reduce sound, the location of a 5-metre high boundary within 5 metres of the rear of the bungalow cannot be considered to be ideal.
The proposal would also have a significant impact on the second dormer bungalow that adjoins the site. Currently, the smaller of the two warehouse buildings on the application site is located relatively near the back of this house. However, the shopping centre proposal would replace this building with a much bigger one that would be approximately 30 metres wider and would be built between 1-3 metres closer to the joint boundary. Visually, the building would have an overbearing impact on this bungalow.
CONCLUSION & RECOMMENDATION
In my view, the proposal represents an overdevelopment of a very constrained site (notwithstanding the fact that the rezoning objective for the site provides for a development of approximately this scale). Contrary to the retailing guidelines, the developer has not provided an adequate level of information to justify the proposal in terms of the sequential approach. In my view, it is erroneous to consider the site as being an edge-of-centre site bearing in mind the size of the town and the distance to the primary shopping core. I consider that the proposal would be contrary to the strategic retailing study and the national guidelines, as the cumulative impact of this development on top of the existing retail developments in the locality would be to create an out-of-centre retailing node within the town that would be larger and more significant in floorspace terms than the existing shopping provision in the town centre.
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The proposed parking provision is seriously deficient and it is unclear as to how the various shopping units would be serviced by delivery vehicles (with the exception of the anchor unit and the other units fronting onto Mill Road). While the other two recent retail developments in the locality are fairly typical of the modern shopping centre vernacular, they are single-storey buildings and they are set back a reasonable distance from the public road. Whereas I consider that proposed shopping centre building is generally poorly designed with industrial-type finishes: it is significantly larger, taller and bulkier than these other buildings and it would be constructed very close to the road on an elevated gateway site to the town. Accordingly, the building would be visually intrusive. The design of the building and the adjacent parking layout would have a significantly negative impact on the adjoining church remains. As a result of the differences in site levels, and the scale, massing and orientation of the shopping centre building and the poor quality boundary proposals, the proposed development would have a significantly adverse visual impact on the setting of the church remains.
The parking area, the delivery yard and the main access road to the car park are all located too close to the adjacent residential properties. Therefore, the proposed development would have a significantly negative impact on residential amenity of these houses and depreciate their value. Accordingly, having considered the contents of this application, the decision of the planning authority, the provisions of the development plan, the strategic retailing study and the national guidelines, the grounds of appeal, my site inspection and my assessment of the planning issues, I recommend that permission be refused for the reasons set out below.
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REASONS AND CONSIDERATIONS
1. Contrary to the provisions of the Retail Planning Guidelines 2005, the applicant has not carried out a full appraisal of the retail development potential of alternative sites within the town centre or sites in edge-of-centre locations, or demonstrated convincingly to the satisfaction of the Board that the proposal (in combination with the other large retail stores in the vicinity) would not cause an adverse impact on the existing shopping provision within the town centre, and/or cause an increase in the number of vacant properties in the primary retail area that is likely to persist in the long term. The proposed development would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
2. Adequate car parking spaces, loading areas and turning spaces have not been provided within the curtilage of the site. The proposed development, would, therefore, result in on-street parking and tend to create serious traffic congestion on the adjoining street.
3. It is considered that due to the proposed design, scale, height, massing and orientation of the proposed building; the inadequate buffer zone and landscaping proposals for the joint boundary with the adjoining graveyard, and the elevated nature of the proposed deck parking area relative to the adjacent ground levels, the proposed development would be unduly obtrusive and it would significantly adversely affect the character of, and views of, the nearby protected structure contrary to the provisions of the Architectural Heritage Protection â€“ Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2004).
4. It is considered that, by reason of its height and bulk, and its close proximity to the adjoining dormer bungalows to the north-west of the site, the proposed shopping centre building would be visually overbearing and negatively impact on the residential amenities currently enjoyed by the occupants of those dwellings. It is also considered that the proposed height and location of the proposed car deck, relative to the adjoining bungalow to the north-east, would result in an unacceptably adverse impact on the residential amenity on that property in terms of overlooking and noise from the car park. The proposed development would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
Phillip Dray 27th March 2009
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For detailed information, see Cork County Council Planning files @ www.corkcoco.ie Youghal Town Council Planning Register Number: P58012/08...