Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grafton Street Special Planning Control

Today Dublin City Council published proposed changes to the existing "'Scheme of Special Planning Control for Grafton Street & Environs'.

One of the key points in the document is that 'Charity Shops' would not be permissible as "they would detract from the character of the street". They define a charity shop as:

"A shop in which a charity sells used goods that are given to it, or in which they sell new goods, in order to generate an income for the work of the charity."

Now I understand why they would be against the sale of used goods but I am amazed at the explicit mention of new goods. Essentially they are specifying that any shop or establishment that is welcome on Grafton Street would no longer be welcome if they are generating income for charitable work. This to me seems like a (hopefully unintentional) attack on the charity sector.

Bryan Ward, a planner at the council, was quoted in last weekend's Sunday Times as saying, "We're not saying there are no places for charity shops in the city centre. We'd be quite happy to have them on some of the side streets."

I don't understand this disapproval of potentially high-class shops whose profits go towards the work of charity. This proposal is saying it's OK to sell clothes and toys and technology made in a sweatshop but if you're selling ethical goods whose profits go to charity then you're not welcome. I'm welcome to open an art gallery, a tailors or a barber as long as it's for personal profit. If I'm a charity and I want all the profits to go towards saving lives, well, I'm not allowed on the South Side's most dynamic retail experience. One could even argue that this wording prevents profit-making shops from selling items on behalf of charity.

It's another case of rewarding those that want to make personal profit but penalising those who want to do good. I am more welcome to make millions for myself and give a small percentage to charity rather than to make millions for charity and keep a small percentage for myself. All because of this taboo word 'charity'.

Thankfully they are welcoming submissions and observations to be made by June 13th 2013. I would encourage everyone in the sector and beyond to voice your concerns. 'Charity shops' needs to be removed or redefined or we could very well see this restriction rolled out on Grafton Street and beyond.

It is worth noting that Oxfam Ireland already have a shop, selling only new goods, in this area on South King Street. This document states that The Planning Authority have the power to
"serve a notice on each person who is the owner or occupier of land of measures required to be undertaken for the discontinuance of any use or the continuance of any use subject to conditions"
"Under this notice the Planning Authority must state they shall pay expenses that are reasonably incurred by that person."

Finally, the point may be made that charity shops could not afford space on Grafton Street anyway, but we have seen excellent locations been bequeathed to charities in the past. And frankly, if a business feels it makes financial sense to locate on Grafton Street then why would it not make sense for a charity to locate there? If anything, because of their access to volunteers, a Grafton Street location should be more affordable to a charity.

Map of the affected area.

You can read the full report here.
You can make your submissions/observations using this document.

Update: Apparently Oxfam on South King Street now sell secondhand goods, not just new goods. My apologies.

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