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Monday 26 September 2016

Clery's workers object to redevelopment plan for O'Connell Street site

Former Clerys staff member Gerry Markey Picture: Caroline Quinn
Former Clerys staff member Gerry Markey Picture: Caroline Quinn

A group of former Clerys workers have launched a concerted bid to block the planned €150m redevelopment of the iconic store.

This follows over 35 former Clerys employees lodging similar planning objections with Dublin City Council against OCS Properties Ltd's plan to transform the site into a six-storey retail and office scheme, including a top-floor destination area with a glass roof and outdoor dining area.

The precinct plan, totalling 350,000 square feet, also includes a 176-bedroom hotel linked by bridge to the O'Connell Street building.

Documents lodged with the council by OCS Properties claim that the so-called "Project D1" will create 3,990 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

Economic consultants employed by OCS Properties claim that over the first 20 years of Project D1, it would contribute €6.6bn to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and €1.7bn to the exchequer.

The architects for the scheme, Henry J Lyons, have told the council that the proposal "seeks to generate a vibrant quarter within the centre of the city which will see the repair, restoration and regeneration of the original Clerys building".

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However, former Clerys worker Susie Gaynor McGowan, who is objecting to the plan said that she hopes the council refuses planning permission.

"There is a lot wrong with the plan," she said yesterday. "We are not Abu Dhabi here. This is O'Connell Street - it's a working-class area for decent, hard-working people. No one wants an open-top bar on O'Connell Street."

Ms Gaynor McGowan expressed concern over the height of the scheme and more space being earmarked for office rather than retail.

She was one of 460 workers at the O'Connell Street store that were left shocked when the business abruptly closed last June after 162 years of trading. The way staff were treated was criticised by unions and the Government.

Ms Gaynor McGowan vowed to oppose the plan all the way to An Bord Pleanala.

Her former colleague Gerry Markey has also objected. "We were unfairly treated - we didn't do anything wrong," he said yesterday.

A number of the objections by the Clerys workers are quite similar and express concern that the majority of space in Project D1 will be for offices, with less space earmarked for retail.

Councillor Nial Ring was among those who submitted an objection to the application, which he said was "to show solidarity with the former workers".

Mr Ring said he was calling for a stipulation in any planning permission that the former workers be offered jobs, though he said he was not sure this could be done.

He was also planning to table a motion at Dublin City Council, calling on all contractors to boycott any work on the site in solidarity with the workers.

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