DUNNES STORES HAS been stalled in its Kildare expansion plans after a row over the ’great wall’ the supermarket chain erected to divide it and a neighbouring SuperValu.
The supermarket giant has an outlet in Newbridge that is part of a small shopping centre and is located next to a retail park.
For years, there was open access between the retail park and Dunnes Stores, with shoppers able to easily park in one area and shop in another.
However, in September 2015 Dunnes built a concrete wall – that stands at around six feet tall – to separate it from the retail park. The wall was built just days before SuperValu opened a store next to Dunnes.
Since then, residents have appealed for the supermarket chain to take down the concrete divider, dubbed by locals as the ‘great wall of Dunnes’.
Many say that it is a major inconvenience, while officials say it could restrict emergency vehicles. However, the company has stood firm.
Meanwhile, SuperValu has taken matters into its own hands – erecting a large, digital display board that faces into the Dunnes car park and shows its special offers.
Most recently, the wall has become a barrier to Dunnes’ plans to expand at the site.
One of the supermarket’s subsidiaries, Castlebrook Investments, has applied for planning permission to demolish part of the existing shopping centre so that it can increase its footprint.
It also wants to build four new retail units, space for a restaurant and over 400 car parking spaces.
But officials from Kildare County Council have been reluctant to approve the plan, highlighting the presence of the wall as a significant concern for the new development – and calling for Dunnes to knock it down.
“It is stated that no transport links exist between the applicant’s site and the adjacent retail park,” a document from Kildare County Council said.
“While this is currently the case, the link did exist as recently as two and a half years ago and was subsequently blocked by the construction of a concrete block wall.
“The applicant is requested to submit proposals to reinstate full permeability at this location.”
Dunnes said that vacancy rates in the neighbouring retail park – which it added had been largely empty for years – had fallen recently as more shops opened up.
“(This has) the potential to increase traffic volumes travelling to and from the retail park through the Newbridge shopping centre car park and for this reason the applicant took the decision to close the link.”
Nevertheless, the Kildare council said the new development with the “boundary wall” remaining in place “may endanger public health by reason of a traffic hazard”.
It said that the Dunnes wall could cause “restricted access for emergency vehicles at this location in particular at peak times”. A final decision is due later this month.
Speaking to Fora, independent councillor for Kildare-Newbridge Paddy Kennedy said that many locals want the wall gone.
“Before the wall was built you could park in the retail park and then shop in Dunnes, now you need to go out onto the main road and around. It’s a busy road so the drive-through was important,” he said.
“Residents are very annoyed about the wall, I’ve met many who complain that they can’t walk into the retail park because Dunnes built the wall. I’m hoping that (Dunnes) will see sense in their planning.”
A local Facebook page, Newbridge – People Traffic, has been urging people to make submissions to local councillors asking for the wall to be scrapped.
Neither Dunnes nor SuperValu responded to requests for comment, while Kildare County Council declined to comment due the current planning application.