Saturday, 22 December 2007

M&S opt for Killarney after planning setback

Marks & Spencer is to open a store in Killarney after An Bord Pleanála turned down its appeal for a store at a retail park in Tralee.

Earlier this year, in a controversial decision, Tralee's councillors denied the retail giant a material contravention.

The Killarney M&S outlet will open in May at the Deerpark shopping centre employing 80 people, and its arrival has been gleefully welcomed in the town.

Although anxious to play down ancient rivalries, councillors and the business community can hardly believe their luck and see the arrival of M&S as boosting considerably the tourist town's retail cachet, which had fallen behind Tralee in recent years.

"The increased presence of international brands will appropriately compliment the superb traditional indigenous retail offerings for which Killarney is well known internationally," the Killarney Chamber of Commerce said this weekend.

Earlier this year, to considerable public surprise, town councillors in Tralee refused to grant M&S a material contravention of the town plan to allow them into the retail park at Manor West on the outskirts of Tralee.

Instead they hoped to persuade them to locate to a shopping centre nearer town.

Originally, a smooth passage was expected for M&S at Manor West, in line with other retail giants who now operate from there.

However, shortly before the first vote on the matter local developers announced plans for a shopping centre in the Austin Stack Park, Tralee, nearer the town centre.

The expectation was that M&S would be moved into the new retail park at Austin Stack Park. Some councillors said alternative locations nearer town might be considered.

However, there was a public outcry at the councillors' decision and even the Church of Ireland rector wrote to parishioners and joined in a protest outside the council chambers in support of M&S.

The rejection of the retail giant was the single biggest issue on the doorstep in the general election last May, candidates found, and cost Labour candidate Tralee Cllr Terry O'Brien and Fianna Fáil Cllr Norma Foley dearly in votes.

The Killarney store will open in May at the Deerpark shopping centre where Tesco are the anchor tenants.

It will generate 80 full-time jobs. Moreover, it will be smaller than the €6 million store originally planned for Tralee but will also include a food hall, clothing store, bakery and cafe.

Chief executive of Marks and Spencer in Ireland Neil Hyslop said he was disappointed with the planning board's decision - especially as there had been overwhelming support in Tralee for the store, but confirmed the decision to open in Killarney.

The company had no plans to open elsewhere in Tralee, he said.

The Irish Times

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