Proposal to let artists bring life to vacant premises

Tess Felder

Tess Felder

AN initiative has been proposed to reduce the number of vacant premises in the county and at the same time boost the arts and crafts sector for which Kilkenny is known, and which tourists come to see.

The idea, which was devised by Kilkenny County Council arts officer Mary Butler, was highlighted at a meeting of the council’s forward planning committee (SPC 1).

“There is a high level of vacancy at the moment,” senior planner Denis Malone said in a discussion about the county’s retail strategy, which is being updated.

“The Arts Office came up with a good scheme to try to get people to let their premises to artists or craft makers, rent-free or for a nominal rent, to get use out of the building and have a presence on the street,” he explained.

The proposal is that the artist would pay the electricity bills, and the property would still be available to rent. There would also be a guarantee that the artist would vacate the premises on two weeks’ notice, added director of services John McCormack.

“The initiative is still there,” he said. “Everything is ready to go, except property owners have not come forward.”

Cllr Tom Maher (FG) had asked whether it would be possible to create an incentive for uptake of vacant premises, such as a reduction in rates for them or a reduction in parking or water charges; but Mr Malone said that would be “very difficult”. “I don’t know legally if the council can waive rates given that the council has its own need to get money in,” Mr Malone said.