Plans to build a second Aldi store in Mullingar have been blocked this week after An Bord Pleanála reversed the council’s permission on safety grounds.
“I find it mind-boggling why they wouldn’t give the planning. There’s a huge population in the area,” said Cllr Aidan Davitt.
“I find this very odd when there’s existing use and a business there for 50 years,” he added, before pointing out how Aldi’s main competitor Lidl was granted permission for a very similar unit on the Horizon site just last month.
According to her report, An Bord Pleanála’s inspector believes the shortfall of parking spaces in Aldi’s initial application for the former Westmeath Motors site on the Dublin Road would lead to cars parking on the “very busy” forecourt.
This would “create a traffic hazard for customers trying to access the filling station via the in-gate next to the Glenview/Towerview entrance”.
The inspector also believed the reduced provision of car parking spaces at the development to comply with a council direction, and the “insufficient” loading area and turning space for deliveries “would endanger public safety by reason of a traffic hazard”.
Curiously, this refusal was also proposed by the planner at the county council - albeit for a number of different reasons - but this was overturned by the county council in February.
However, there is quite a substantial silver lining to this setback to the German retailer, as both county planner and An Bord Pleanála inspector believe that “if a wider landholding was included, a much better development could be achieved”.
It was also noted that if Aldi wished to operate out of the existing BuyLo shell rather than demolish and re-develop, it could trade with practical impunity.
These opinions will offer significant encouragement to Aldi’s architects in their pursuit of a re-application.
In February the German retail giant Aldi was given a conditional go-ahead to build a new, €1.7m store on the site of the former Westmeath Motors on the Dublin Road.
Aldi hoped to demolish the remaining showroom and the BuyLo shop and replace it with a 1,550 sqm store, of which 1,140 sqm will be dedicated retail space.
The new €1.7m store will have an off-licence, 90 car parking spaces, 15 spaces for bicycles, and had hoped to be open for this Christmas.
In April 2013, whilst opening its 100th Irish-based store in Callan, Co Kilkenny, Aldi announced it had plans to build another 20 stores across Ireland within three years, each employing around 15 people.
At the moment, one in every 16 euro spent on Irish groceries is handed over at Aldi tills.
The company already has two stores in Westmeath, on the site of the former creamery on the Green Road in Mullingar, and the other at the eastern end of the Golden Island complex in Athlone.