DUNNES STORES’ PLANS to overhaul an outlet in south Dublin as part of its wider “retail transformation” project have hit a snag.
Earlier this year, a proposal to expand and revamp the layout of the supermarket in Sandyford’s Beacon South Quarter was filed with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council by Maxbelle Junction Limited.
The company is a subsidiary of Irish property investment firm Clarendon Properties – headed by Tony Leonard and Paddy McKillen – which acquired a number of the retail units at Beacon South Quarter in recent years.
The project included proposals to significantly revamp the layout of the Sandyford supermarket by expanding into two adjacent units which have been vacant for several years.
The plans also involved the addition of a new butcher, fishmonger, food court, in-house restaurant and health concession to the outlet and the relocation of the current off-licence.
The local council has ruled to refuse planning permission for the proposed changes to the supermarket and blocked the applicant from expanding into the vacant units.
The local authority stated that the development would be “inconsistent” with the definition of a ‘supermarket’ and outlined it was concerned the revamp would lead to “over-provision of retail facilities” at the location.
It also noted that such an “over-provision” in this context could undermine the viability of existing businesses in the area and harm nearby retail locations in Stillorgan.
Beacon South Quarter, which is comprised of 25,500 sq m of retail space and over 700 apartments, is the main retail core for the Sandyford business district.
A number of the retail units in the complex, including the vacant lots Dunnes sought to expand into, are zoned as ‘retail warehousing’ units. It was intended the units would house “a series of furniture shops”.
In their submission, the developer stated: “It has proved difficult in recent years to fill all these units with furniture shops that are economically sustainable.”
As part of the proposed revamp, the Dunnes Stores supermarket would increase in size from 2,333 sq m to 3,280 sq m. Retail floor space would only marginally increase by roughly 300 sq m, with most of the new space to be used for the food market.
In its submission, the developers argued that given the increase in retail floor space is not “substantive”, the redeveloped outlet would still fall within the definition of a supermarket in a neighbourhood centre.
It also argued that the redevelopment would not lead to a proportionate increase in the store’s turnover.
A ‘retail impact study’ compiled for the developers also proposed that the new supermarket would only cater to Sandyford residents and working population in the area, and would not have an adverse impact on nearby retail centres.
The council argued that the study did not adequately ally their concerns about the development only catering for the employment population within the Sandyford business district.
Dunnes Stores can still bid to overturn the council’s decision by appealing its ruling to An Bord Pleanála.
Dunnes Stores has been going through a “retail transformation” over the past few years, according to the planning submission for its proposed Sandyford expansion.
The retailer has tried to shift away from its traditional low-price strategy to a new image as a “higher-quality retailer”, acquiring upmarket brands such as Baxter & Greene, coffee chain Café Sol and James Whelan Butchers.
As part of this new approach, Dunnes has also been busy rejigging a number of its major outlets in recent years. It rolled out significant changes to its flagship store in Cornelscourt where it opened a Nourish Health Food shop.
The retailer has also changed the layout of its Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre outlet and introduced a new sit-in food court and a Sheridan’s Cheesemongers stall. Dunnes also opened a Café Sol shop to the city centre location.
“Reflecting on this new strategy Dunnes Stores would like to introduce a new food market into the Beacon Shopping Centre,” the planning submission stated.
“Dunnes Stores seeks to introduce a new food market concept by providing space within the envelope of its stores to allow independent retailers and food companies (restaurants & cafés) to trade.”