Permission Denied for Hammerson and Irish Life to Open Casino in Dublin

Permission Denied for Hammerson and Irish Life to Open Casino in Dublin

UK property group and life insurance group Hammerson and Irish Life were denied permission to build a 24-hour casino in Ilac Shopping Centre in Dublin by An Bord Pleanála. The centre is co-owned by the two companies, while Hammerson still owns stakes in Dundrum Town Centre and Pavilions in Swords.

Last summer, Hammerson and Irish Life once again joined forces and petitioned the City Council for permission to convert an existing vacant rental unit in Ilac Centre. The unit was previously rented by clothing brand Jack & Jones, and the idea was to repurpose this now empty unit into a two-storey unit housing a 24-hour casino with ancillary “family entertainment.” Expo had already been selected as the right casino operator for the venue.

Read about how Hard Rock International got a casino premise license from Ritz Club

Hammerson and Irish Life’s plans to build a 24-hour casino Thwarted

However, the planning application was stopped dead in its tracks as Dublin City Council rejected the proposal, stating that the casino didn’t follow the designated land use outlined in the development plan. The council said it had serious concerns “that permitting a casino at this location would be setting a precedent for such a non-retail use within Category 1-designated streets, the primary shopping streets in the city centre.”

The Council’s decision was appealed by Hammerson and Irish Life to An Bord Pleanála, which is the national planning appeals board. A planning inspector for the watchdog on the applicants’ appeal said that a casino might help by bringing in people and luring them into the shopping centre. It might also help ease the strain the retail industry has found itself in due to the global pandemic. The inspector also said, “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.”

Nevertheless, despite the compelling arguments brought forward by both Hammerson and Irish Life, An Bord Pleanála also rejected the casino plan for Coles Lane. An inspector on their behalf said that although it is true 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.”

He continued giving his reasons for the rejection, saying “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.”

The biggest concern seems to lie with the proposed opening hours of the casino. According to the inspector, a casino which would be open 24/7 would be a nuisance to the residents. Apart from that, it would also cause people to loiter and might lead to questionable behaviour late at night. This becomes even more unacceptable when one takes into consideration the fact that Coles Lane and the surrounding streets are a conservation area.

One possibility for Hammerson and Irish Life to push for the opening of their own casino is to generate more revenue. Shopping and retail destinations are among some of the places which have been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic due to lockdowns, health and safety restrictions, and reduced footfall. For the first quarter of this year, Hammerson is reported to have collected just 31pc of its leases due in Ireland.

Read about 2020’s impact on the gambling industry. 

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