LOCAL BUSINESS owners have voiced their anger over the granting of a highly controversial amusement arcade in the heart of High Street.
The property, owned by the consortium Melcorpo has been granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanala, despite the recommendation of an Bord Pleanala inspector not to allow the application. The decision also goes against that of Kilkenny Borough Council who originally refused the application.
Brian MacEneaney of MacEneaneys chemist on High Street said that he was ‘very annoyed and surprised’ by the decision. “It annoys me because I don’t want that kind of operation on High Street. Kilkenny is being promoted as a medieval city and tourism is the single most important industry and I believe that this kind of establishment could gravely damage this.
“I am surprised because the application was not allowed by the local authority and the Bord Pleanala inspector and An Bord Pleanala went against all the recommendations,” he said.
Michael Dore of Dores on High Street remarked that the proposed amusement arcade was ‘more Tramore than Vegas’ adding that he was ‘shattered by the decision’. “ You have to wonder why there is going to be an amusement arcade when the whole purpose of the arcade was for retail. It is going to be of no value to tourism and no value to the city.
“There is going to be no value in this for retail for the city. All they are doing is filling an empty building out of desperation. It is very unusual that An Bord Pleanala overturned the local authority and the recommendations of an An Bord Pleanala inspector. It gives the wrong impression of the city. Initially it was meant to be for retail and it is a great shame that this is happening. I deal with a lot of tourists and this is not a suitable location. How are we going to grow as a city with this in the middle of it?”
John Quinn who owns Quinns Computers on James Street said that he was amazed by the decision on two counts. “I have been here for the past 16 years and this decision is not going to do us any good. I have nothing against arcades per se but this is in the wrong location. It is wrong for the city which is a medieval city steeped in a rich heritage. Millions has been invested into the city and there are very strict regulations covering signage.
“This is going to play on people who are idle and can ill afford it. It will be a gathering place for people loitering around and I am worried that there will be trouble and anti social behaviour.
“I am amazed that an Bord Pleanala can overrule both the inspector’s decision and that of the local authority. What is the point in having a planning authority when it is overruled ad lib. No inspector ever spoke to me and I would have thought that they would have consulted with people in the immediate vicinity,” he added.
Jeweller John Ryan said that he didn’t like the idea of an amusement arcade coming to High Street. “I am very surprised by the decision. I thought that the planners would have had a different attitude towards it in the context of city centre shopping,” he said.
Padraig Lawlor of The Gourmet Store said that he thought the proposed arcade was ‘a bad idea’. “Kilkenny is a medieval city and this won’t look good in it. It is smack in the middle of the medieval mile and to think that there will be an arcade there with slot machines is ridiculous and non sensical. It won’t do any good for tourism or for the young people in the city. People are in a lot of financial trouble at the moment and this is only going to make things worse.
Further up High Street Peter Dore of Dores Butcher remarked that while it was ‘awful’ to see the building with so many empty units that he was a terrible pity that shops or restaurants were not going into the arcade.
Pat Collins, who is one of the existing tenants in the building objected both to the local authority and to An Bord Pleanala. “I don’t want it because of the undesirable element that it might coax into the place. It was supposed to be a shopping centre. A couple of years ago they tried to get us all out but failed. I would like to see the shops re opened and retail units in them. That is what was originally meant to be here,” he said.