Granting of planning permission for former Debenhams “fantastic news” for the city

The former Limerick Debenhams store.

THE granting of planning permission for the foremer Debenhams building on O’Connell street is “fantastic news” for the city, according to Limerick Chamber.

Planning permission has been granted to turn the former Debenhams building on O’Connell Street into an aparthotel.

Limerick City and County Council’s planning records show that the development by Dalespell has been granted, subject to eight conditions.

Dalespell had previously applied for permission to turn parts of the ground floor, and first and second floors, as well as the entire third floor of the landmark building into an aparthotel.

The basement, ground floor, and a small portion of the first and second floors would remain for retail use.

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It is understood that around 60 rooms will be provided when the aparthotel is finished.

Among the conditions imposed on the development are that provisions should be made to ensure that all works be supervised by a Grade II Conservation Architect and that all changes made to the listed building are in keeping with its architectural heritage.

Also among the conditions are limitations on the hours that work can take place on the site, that all surface water run off be accommodated within the building itself, and that a revised proposal for lighting and signage be submitted to the Council before the building is occupied.

The confirmation of planning permission comes as the landmark city centre building has been lying empty since the UK clothing chain closed all its Irish stores in 2020.

Reacting to the granting of planning permission, Chief Economist and Head of Policy with Limerick Chamber, Seán Golden, said that it heralds good news for the city centre.

“The granting of permission for plans at the former Debenhams building is fantastic news for the city. It is a vote of confidence in the city centre that plans for the building are underway,” he said.

Mr Golden said that there are a number of exciting projects ongoing in the city at the moment, and that e Debenhams project will add to a more vibrant city environment.

“There are some interesting projects on the go in the city, this project, 1BQ, and the Opera Center to name a few. Hopefully in the coming months we will see more residential developments being planned for the city centre that will attract more people to live, work, and visit here,” Mr Golden said.

“It is all too important that people support developments coming forward in the city, as we have seen over the last few months, there are some key projects being held up with an Bord Pleanála that would really add value to the city centre,” he concluded.

The former Debenhams building on O’Connell Street was the site of long-running protests back in 2020 when the UK retailer announced it was closing all Irish stores and letting staff go without pay or redundancy.

Mike McNamara from Patrickswell was one of the Limerick store’s longest serving staff members. Between Debenhams and the building’s previous owners, Roches Stores, Mr McNamara served for four decades at the iconic O’Connell Street building.

Speaking to the Limerick Post earlier this year, Mr McNamara said that the company showed no loyalty to their staff and left them in the dark about their future.

“On Holy Thursday morning, around 10 o’clock, an email came in just saying that our jobs were gone.

“We were ringing each other after and we were all asking each other ‘What does it mean? Does it mean we’ve no more work, no more jobs?’

“We were totally left in limbo,” he said.

Despite over a year of protesting, the staff never got money from Debenhams, with the taxpayer being tasked with footing the bill instead.

As a result of the Debenhams protests, a bill was brought before the Dáil called the ‘Debenhams Bill’ to ensure that, if companies go into liquidation, redundancy costs should be factored into company debts and paid by the company and not the public purse.