Despite months of speculation and debate, the planning cap on superstores in the Irish Republic is to remain unchanged - at net retail space of 3,500 square metres (37,700 sq ft) in the greater Dublin area and 3,000 square metres (32,300 sq ft) elsewhere.

Environment minister Martin Cullen announced this week that a review of the Republic’s retail planning guidelines will be confined to the development of retail warehouses, currently capped at a gross retail floor space of 6,000 square metres (64,600sq ft). “I am not going to look at the grocery trade,” he said. “The capacity sizes in the supermarket sector are fine.”

The decision will disappoint Tesco, which had to cancel superstore plans when the guidelines took effect over two years ago, as well as major players like Sainsbury and Wal-Mart, reportedly reluctant to
enter Ireland because of the cap. Trade and enterprise minister Mary Harney had set off the current speculation by suggesting that a revision of the guidelines, together with the removal of the ban on below-cost selling - the so-called Groceries Order - would encourage competition and keep down prices. She was supported by the Competition Authority and by several economists. But most backbenchers in the main government party, Fianna Fail, opposed any change, as did producers, suppliers and independent retailer groups such as RGDATA.

Ailish Forde, RGDATA director general, said the guidelines would ensure a balanced and sustainable approach to retail development.”
Anthony Garvey