Opinion: Aldi’s Masterplan Lacks Immediate Commitment to Delivery of Significant Public Space
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Writes Ciaran Dineen
It’s not often the case that planning permissions in Carrigaline have a fundamental impact over the vibrancy and identity of the town, but Aldi’s masterplan has the potential to be one of the most important proposals along Carrigaline’s Main Street for decades.
It is nearly 9 months since the retail chain announced their intention to apply for planning permission in Carrigaline, first publishing a public document outlining an overall masterplan for their vision on the Old Pottery Site, extending to a new access point connecting with the future Western Relief Road.
To give Aldi their dues, the Masterplan outlined some good details showcasing how the site could be regenerated to add some much-needed vibrancy and life to the town’s Main Street. For many years and through countless development plans and local area plans, the Old Pottery Site has been pinpointed as a key location within Carrigaline that is crucial for future retail and commercial/residential development for town centre living, while also delivering public amenities for all to use.
The concept outlined sees the emergence of an East-West axis and a North-South axis with good connection from various points around Carrigaline that would almost deliver an additional town centre. Access from Main Street will be for cyclists and pedestrians only, in line with the policy direction from Carrigaline TPREP, with vehicular access only coming via the future Western Relief Road.
However, it’s important to consider what this masterplan is and how its vision is phased. Firstly, the plan is non-statutory, like all masterplans, which means that objectives and proposals are only seen as guidelines intended to advise and inform future development. These are becoming increasingly popular for retail chains and Aldi’s competitor Lidl have published their own masterplan, along with their intention to build a new store, in Douglas.
These can be useful documents and by nature have to be non-committal, given that they may include future developments or plans that would not be accepted by Cork County Council or any other local authority. They are to provide an overall vision, or taster of what a large site could look like in the future with various incremental developments, all requiring their own individual planning permissions.
What is slightly disappointing about Aldi’s masterplan is their intention to only deliver a small amount of space for public amenities in the short-term. As part of Phase 1 of their development, for which they have now formally applied, Aldi propose the construction of their standard 1,819 sqm foodstore, a 66.3 sqm building to be used as a café, various other associated buildings, including an ESB substation, and finally a public plaza area. This will coincide with the delivery of 119 car spaces, 30 of which are to be specifically for a new public carpark, 36 bicycle parking stands, a motorcycle parking bay, the new vehicular entrance from the Western Relief Road and the all important East-West access from Main Street.
It should be noted, to give them credit, following public consultation for the masterplan, Aldi have listened to some observations and requests, which includes the delivery of additional EV (electric vehicle) parking spaces, an enhancement of green areas and the installing of a sculpture, which was requested by Carrigaline Tidy Towns.
In the formal application which was sent to Cork County Council just three days before Christmas, additional documents claim that this Phase 1 development will bring added vibrancy to Carrigaline’s Main Street. However, while the overall masterplan, if fulfilled, will almost certainly do this, proposals contained in Phase 1 do very little to support this claim.
Aside from the new pedestrian/cyclist connection, the entirety of this Phase takes place hundreds of metres away on the most westerly part of the site. This will contain a ‘plaza’ area for public space but when you look at the maps provided as part of the application and the masterplan, this will only provide a small public amenity area in the immediate future. Moreover, the vast bulk of proposed public spaces, which while may generate excitement and justifiably so, are only timetabled to be developed in Phases 5 and 6 of the masterplan, the final two phases of the overall concept.
The latter of these phases deals with the eastern section of the pottery site, which faces onto Main Street. Many will share the same opinion as myself that this particular area is in immediate need of regeneration and should be prioritised as part of this development. Crucially it must also be recognised that given its outlined status in the pecking order, the delivery of a public space here, along with other future development, could easily take over a decade to eventually come to fruition.
Good plans can take time and there is a genuine hope and belief that together with Carrigaline TPREP, this Aldi masterplan could help Carrigaline develop into a town and Main Street that is not just about traffic and fast-food, but one that has a friendly public realm, presents good public space, provides a mix of development and has an enhanced sense of identity.
However, this initial Phase 1 of development prioritises Aldi and not Carrigaline. It does not, in my opinion, provide enough additional public open spaces in the immediate future, and should do more in the short-term to address this issue. It is time that the tables are reversed for a change in Carrigaline and that we put in the necessary infrastructure that people can enjoy before we provide big retail development.
These mistakes have been made in the past, let’s hope that going forward we will not make them again. Residents, planners and public reps must ensure it can’t happen again.
Submissions on the planning application can be made up until February 3rd 2022. The application number is 217464 and is available for inspection via Cork County Council’s website or in hardcopy at the Council’s Planning Department in County Hall.