An ambitious Irish expansion programme by the discount chain Lidl is being slowed by a flood of planning objections.
The chain has established 60 outlets across the Republic since moving into the market five years ago, together with its big German rival, Aldi, and has plans to double that number.
It is actively pursuing new sites around the country, using newspaper advertising and its own web site to alert property owners to its requirements.
But its expansion has been hit by a series of planning objections, mainly by local residents’ groups and by RGDATA, the independent grocers’ body. Some 20 new developments are under appeal at the Planning Board.
Lidl refused official comment on the situation but a source close to the company said it was finding the continual planning problems “very frustrating”.
The source added: “You spend time searching for a suitable site and then planning objections are lodged and everything is held up while the whole process starts again. It makes things very difficult.”
Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the Irish Consumers’ Association, has claimed some of RGDATA’s objections are aimed at stifling competition. RGDATA has denied this, arguing that it only objects when an application contravenes the planning rules.
With Irish grocery prices among the highest in the EU, Lidl’s discount offering is popular, and some communities have been campaigning to get a discount store.
In Trim, Co Meath, when the town council rejected a Lidl application, local woman Mags McGivern organised a petition in favour of a store. It was signed by 5,000 of the town’s 7,500 residents - and the store has now opened. A similar campaign is under way in Drogheda, Co Louth.