Shopkeepers in Kilkenny city’s High Street Mall are preparing to oppose a new entertainment facility for which the centre’s owner has submitted a planning application to Kilkenny Borough Council.
Owner Melcorpo Commercial Properties Ltd submitted a planning application to the council on Friday, seeking permission for amalgamation and change of use for first-storey units 9-16, which are currently permitted as retail and restaurant, for use as a 526.7-square-metre “leisure facility/ entertainment centre.”
The proposed tenant of the entertainment centre is Galaxy Leisure Ltd, who propose to trade as Mr B’s Family Entertainment Centre and who currently operate such a facility in Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, according to the planning application.
“The promoter plans a diverse array of entertainment for all ages with the emphasis on the most modern specification equipment available,” a letter on behalf of Melcorpo states. “Planned activities include motion ride simulators and arcade video games, basketball target games, air hockey, table soccer, multi-play race car and motorcycle simulators, multi-play dance machines, pinball, multiple kiddies rides and activity machines, interactive target games, crane machine challenges for prizes, quiz games, skill games etc.”
The proposed hours of operation are from 10am to 10pm Monday to Sunday, which is one of the reasons other tenants are opposed to the plans.
Whereas the centre is currently blocked off by gates and shutters after regular business trading hours, shop keepers fear that the other premises will be unprotected during the later hours.
“It will mean windows being broken – you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Eamon Carrigan, who runs Kilkenny Camping and Water Sports on the first storey of the High Street Mall, adding of fellow tenant Permanent TSB: “It will leave the bank quite open to being robbed.”
“If they (the gates) are left open at night, it’s going to be a toilet,” said Seamus Nolan, proprietor of Nolans Jewellers on the ground floor at the mall’s High Street entrance.
Melcorpo’s application maintains that “it is in their (Galaxy Leisure’s) commercial interests that the premises does not give rise to anti-social behaviour and for this reason there are strict rules covering patronage of the facility.”
The shopkeepers are not necessarily concerned about those who would be using the entertainment centre in the evening hours, however, but rather others who could access the premises at that time.
The shopkeepers, who are among the few remaining businesses in the mostly vacant building, say they want it maintained as a shopping mall as it was when they signed their first leases.
Mr Carrigan, who has been trading there for 26 years, said he “signed the lease as a shopping centre, not as an arcade.” Likewise said Mr Nolan, who has been operating his jewellers in the centre since May 1989. He wants the owner to rent out the retail spaces as shops to bring back the footfall, which has all but dried up. “I am good at my job and that is why people come in here,” Mr Nolan said.
He also wants the mall’s owner to have to pay commercial rates, for which the vacant spaces are not currently liable because another live five-year planning permission has been in effect there since December 2009.
Melcorpo’s new application refers to previous planning permissions, including one approved by An Bord Pleanála in February 2008 to allow “the conversion of the ground floor of the mall to a single open plan retail unit by removal of the shoe and jewellery units and existing bank TBS premises,” although it notes that a later planning application was altered to retain the bank premises.