The UK property company Hammerson and Irish Life were refused permission to build a casino at the Ilac Centre in Dublin by An Bord Pleanála.
The shopping complex is co-owned by Hammerson and Irish Life. In Dundrum Town Centre and the Pavilions in Swords, Hammerson still holds stakes.
Hammerson and Irish Life submitted a planning proposal last summer for the conversion of an existing empty retail unit at the Ilac Centre. The unit was previously owned by the Jack & Jones brand of apparel.
A 24-hour casino and ancillary “family entertainment” on the ground and first-floor levels would have seen the re-purposing of the two-storey unit. The venue was to be run by casino operator Expo.
The plan was rejected by Dublin City Council, stating it had “serious concerns” that having a casino at the site would set a precedent for such non-retail use on primary shopping streets in the city center.
An Bord Pleanála
The council’s planning rejection was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Hammerson and Irish Life.
A planning inspector for the watchdog on the pair’s appeal noted: “It is argued that in the current context, there is serious strain on the retail market with a drop in footfall in such areas.
“It is argued that there is a worldwide trend to more leisure-oriented uses on former retail premises, and it is argued that facilitating this would protect the overall viability and vitality of such centres.”
Coles Lane property
But An Bord Pleanála also rejected the casino proposal for Coles Lane, despite arguments from the property group and Irish Life.
“While I would accept the general argument made by the applicant that flexibility and change is vital for malls, streets, and retail areas to thrive and survive in the coming years, I find it difficult to see any strong justification on this for permitting a use like this on a vital entrance for the mall,” noted the planning inspector.
“It is as likely in my opinion to be problematic for Coles Lane as it is to be a benefit, either in daytime or in the evening. I do not consider that a case has been made to change the use from either retail or restaurant use as previously permitted.”
Due to the pandemic, shopping destinations have been hit hard by lockdowns and declining footfall over the past year. For the first quarter of this year, Hammerson received just 31pc of its leases due in Ireland.