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Building Control: Three Starbucks cafes in Cork lack proper planning permission

Three Starbucks cafes that opened for business in Cork’s city centre over the past 12 months do not have the proper planning permission, according to An Bord Pleanála, the quasi-judicial body that examines planning decision appeals in Ireland.

The Cork City Council received several complaints after the three Starbucks outlets opened in Emmet Place, Patrick Street, and Princes Street. An investigation by building control officers confirmed that no planning permission had ever been sought for any of the shops.

Cork City Council commenced discussions with Starbucks central management, and it is understood that the company’s position is that no planning permission was needed for any of the outlets.

An Bord Pleanála, however, has ruled that planning permission is required in this instance because the stores represent a change of use.

In July 2015 local residents and historians expressed concern when a Starbucks café was opened at the Queen Anne House at the corner of Emmet Place and Opera Lane in the centre of the city. The historic property is currently the site of a retail shop, but the façade has been left untouched.

 

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When the Queen Anne House was redeveloped as a Starbucks café, Cork City Council received a complaint that the establishment did not meet the mandatory planning requirements.

Planners from City Hall investigated the allegation and sent Starbucks a warning letter advising them that the Emmet Place store was an unauthorised change of use. The company is understood to have responded that most of its food and drink were take-away items, making its operations retail in scope and therefore in keeping with the planning designation.

Another café, this one an outlet that had opened in Princes Street in early 2015, was served with an official enforcement notice directing them to correct planning problems. Another enforcement notice was sent to the café in Patrick Street.

An Bord Pleanála sided with the City Council, and judged that in all three cases the coffee shop operations were more akin to those of restaurants, which are excluded from the definition of ‘shop’.

The UK head office for Starbucks was contacted about the Cork planning permission problems, but so far no public response has been made by company representatives.

With over 21,000 stores in 65 countries and territories, Starbucks is the biggest coffee house in the world, surpassing its primary rival in the UK, Costa Coffee.

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