Tesco, the country's largest retailer, has said it will build more stores and increase employee numbers in Ireland – but only if the planning mix is right and no caps on floor space are introduced by planners.
In a submission to Fingal County Council, seen by the Sunday Tribune, the giant retailer says it will deliver "additional food stores" and create new jobs during a period of economic contraction. However, it tells Fingal that the council needs to be proactive in facilitating such moves.
One of the firm's chief demands, in relation to a new development plan for Fingal, is that no "quantitative floorspace caps'' should be included.
The retailer holds out the prospect of price reductions if planners are more flexible in their approach to the retail sector. "The average price of the shopping basket remains high in Dublin relative to comparative EU cities and this can be addressed through the appropriate provision of retail facilities at the source of demand," it states.
The company, which entered the Irish market by buying Quinnsworth, says a larger provision of stores in Fingal and other areas should prevent a "leakage" of customers to Northern Ireland and should also reduce prices.
"There is an identified need for additional retail facilities within the jurisdiction of Fingal County Council which has been recognised in the retail strategy," says the firm. It points out that "traditionally" planning has slowed and restricted the delivery of retail floorspace. It suggests caps are one of these impediments.
"The implementation of floorspace caps may result in reduced competition, reduced employment and underprovision of retail floorspace, particularly where a settlement experiences rapid population growth," suggests the company's submission.
"The planning authority should ensure the appropriate retail designations are in place to support revenue and employment-generating retail development."
The retailer, led by chief executive Terry Leahy, devotes a large part of its submission to calling on planners to expand the amount of car parking allowed with retail centres.
Tesco rejects the idea that the retailing sector will necessarily be damaged by the downturn, "as a substantial proportion of convenience goods are staple".