Belfast Telegraph

Republic to reconsider its limit on store sizes

By Paula Melia

The Republic's Government is to consider lifting the cap on the size of retail units, which could allow large multiples such as US grocer Wal-Mart to enter the Irish market.

Large retailers, such as Asda parent Wal-Mart and US firm Costco, have ruled out entering Ireland because of the restrictions on store sizes, but a review of the guidelines currently under way could remove the limits for grocers.

Under 2001 guidelines, the current maximum floor space is 3,500 square metres.

Almost 200 submissions have been made to a review of the Retail Planning Guidelines, with new rules expected to be put out for public consultation before the end of the year.

The review was ordered by Planning Minister Ciaran Cuffe and comes as independent and family-owned stores argue that out-of-town large stores have an adverse effect on town centres.

But the Competition Authority has said that the current limits could prevent competition by imposing restrictions on the size of new outlets.

A consultation paper produced by the Republic's Department of the Environment says existing floorspace limits "should be assessed to determine whether they remain appropriate".

A spokesman said the issue would be considered in the context of new guidelines. "We hope to have guidelines out for public consultation before the end of the year," he said.