The Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce is arguing that the city’s High Street Mall should not be allowed to be developed into a games arcade and a restaurant, resulting in a reduction of 4,580 square feet of retail space in the city centre.
The Chamber’s position is outlined in a submission regarding a planning application by Melcorpo Commercial Properties Ltd that is currently being considered by Kilkenny Borough Council. And because the development would require the council to grant a “change of use” for the premises, the developer is due to meet with local councillors today (Wednesday) to outline its plans.
The submission by consultants Liam McGree and Associates, on behalf of the Chamber, argues that the proposed development should be classified as an “amusement arcade” – which is among the types of development that the city’s Local Area Plan labels as a “non-desirable use” in High Street/ St Kieran’s Street/ Rose Inn Street/ Market Cross/ Market Yard at ground-floor level.
“Clearly, therefore, the planning authority recognises the primacy of retail activity in the city centre and is not favourably disposed towards uses that detract from the essential character of the retail core, displace retail uses or displace uses that contribute to its vitality or viability,” the Chamber’s submission states.
It further states that the application should be considered in conjunction with Melcorpo’s planning application for change of use of three retail units for use as a restaurant, as “that proposal would result in a loss of an additional 997 square feet of retail floor space within the mall. Taken together, both of these proposals would result in the loss of approximately 4,580 square feet of existing retail floorspace from this city centre location and would reduce retailing to a secondary use in the High Street Mall.”
The Chamber’s submission argues that such a development in the city centre “is excessive and would detract from the essential character of the retail core.”
It also expresses concerns that such a development could set a precedent in the reduction in retail space.
“It is unfortunately the case that a high rate of commercial vacancies is a feature of just about every town and centre in Ireland at the moment but we suggest that there should not be a ‘rush to the bottom’ by the conversion of these vacant retail units to uses which are incompatible with the essential character of the retail core,” the submission states.
It further maintains: “A decision to grant planning permission in this instance would set a negative precedent for other property owners in the city centre who might have other vacant retail units or retail units that are failing to show significant financial returns. Such a precedent would undoubtedly encourage property owners to look at alternative uses for those units that might show better individual financial returns for their owners but which would, taken individually or collectively, threaten the character of the city centre which was so carefully been protected over the decades.”