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Drinagh’s plans for new Bantry garden centre were refused

April 19th, 2024 5:00 PM

Drinagh’s plans for new Bantry garden centre were refused Image
Drinagh Co-op had applied to develop a new garden centre at their Drinagh Farm Centre premises in Bantry, above. (Photo:

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PLANS to develop a new garden centre by Drinagh Co-op in Bantry have been refused on appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Drinagh Co-op originally applied to Cork County Council for permission to develop the new garden centre in November 2022 as part of a wider planning application at the Drinagh Farm Centre at Dunbittern East, Bantry on the main N71 road.

The application sought retention of an existing farm retail warehouse as well as permission for a change of use of part of an existing storage area to extend the retail area. The application also included proposals to develop a new single storey garden centre.

In January 2023, Cork County Council planners refused permission on the grounds that zoning for retail was already provided on the other side of the N71 at the Bantry Business Park. The refusal also stated retail warehouse development is specifically not included in the current zoning that is confined to ‘business development’. The planning authority was not satisfied that the existing retail floorspace developed at the warehouse would be for ‘incidental retailing use’ which they said would not be in accordance with the parent permission granted by An Bord Pleanála as it implied ‘direct retail sales including to the general public’. They went on to say that the proposed development would contravene a planning condition attached to the existing parent permission, to ‘the detriment to the vitality and viability of Bantry town’.

Drinagh Co-op appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála in February 2023. The grounds for appeal stated that they had purchased the Farm Centre and Wolfe Tone Square (town centre) premises in 2012. Drinagh said the town centre premises is ‘incredibly constrained’ and separation of the agri-retail element to town centre would ‘not be commercially or operationally viable’.

They stated that predominantly domestic goods are sold at the town centre premises and agricultural sector goods are sold at the Dunbittern site. According to Drinagh Co-op, the existing farm retail premises represents 16% of the gross floor area of the building but is in need of modernisation and the garden centre would ‘fill a gap in the garden and DIY goods market in Bantry and surrounding area’.

Drinagh Co-op’s appeal stated that the Farm Centre signage insinuates that the development caters for the agricultural market and that ‘the public would not be enticed unless they had a prior understanding of the nature of the goods sold’. According to Drinagh Co-op, approximately 85% of customers are account holders and 80% of total sales are on account/credit to account holders.

Despite their own inspector’s recommendation to refuse, An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the retail aspects of the application but did refuse permission for the proposed garden centre. The decision stated that given the ‘limited nature of the proposed sales/retail area relative to the overall premises’ the development would not be detrimental to the vitality of Bantry town and would not be inconsistent with the retail planning guidelines.

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