French sports retailer Decathlon's Irish expansion may have hit a stumbling block

Liffey Valley Shopping Centre says a proposed Dublin store could breach a decades-old planning rule.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

DECATHLON’S IRISH EXPANSION may have hit a stumbling block after Liffey Valley Shopping Centre claimed one of the retailer’s proposed Dublin stores could breach local planning rules – something the French chain previously rejected.

It was announced today that construction is due to begin on Decathlon’s debut Irish outlet in Ballymun, scheduled to open in April 2020. The retailer – which operates 1,500 locations in more than 50 countries – is planning to open other stores in the capital and around the country.

Decathlon, which sells sports equipment and clothing, was granted approval in July to develop a 3,252 sq m store at an existing retail warehouse unit in Liffey Valley Retail Park.

However, the management company behind Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, which is unconnected to the retail park, has appealed South Dublin council’s decision over concerns that Decathlon may not be permitted to sell clothing from the warehouse unit.

Liffey Valley Management Ltd told An Bord Pleanála that previous planning permission for the retail park, dating back almost 20 years, prohibits the sale of clothing items at the site.

It also cited 2012 rules that restrict the sale of so-called non-bulky items to 20% of the shop floor. These items must be ancillaries to bulky goods, which are defined as goods that “would normally be taken away by car” or that require a large amount of floor space to display.

Based on additional information supplied by the applicant to South Dublin council, Liffey Valley Management Ltd claimed that Decathlon’s Dublin store will exceed that 20% cap, arguing that for a number of sports categories sold by the store, it only stocks non-bulky items.

Liffey Valley Shopping Centre added that, following a review of one of Decathlon’s London outlets, “it would appear that this retail operator’s model is primarily based on non-bulky goods, particularly clothing items and footwear”.

In a previous submission to the council, Decathlon noted that past planning permission for the site permitted the sale of “leisure/sports” goods from the unit. It also said that 18% of its shop floor will be dedicated to ancillary non-bulky items, which falls within the restrictions.

The shopping centre operator doesn’t object to the actual works proposed by Decathlon, saying it “welcomes investment in Liffey Valley”, but the company urged An Bord Pleanála to either enforce conditions attached to the original planning permission, or request that the sports retailer apply for a change of use of the unit.

“Should the decision issued by (South Dublin County Council) not be overturned or amended, this permission would not only contravene a previous condition at the site, but would also negatively impact on established retail centres in the vicinity and set an unacceptable precedent for development in the area,” it said.

Decathlon’s international press office has been contacted for comment.

An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the matter by 2 January 2020.

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