’Council hopes changes can bring shopping centre ‘in the right direction’

Councillors in South Kilkenny are hoping that changes in the wording of the County Development Plan to bring it in line with the regional planning guidelines will also mean good news for the Ferrybank Shopping Centre that has yet to open.

The “material alteration”, aimed at incorporating a Core Strategy for retail development, was approved at this month’s meeting of Kilkenny County Council after the proposals were put on public display. Eight written submissions were received on the matter.

A submission from Deerland Construction, c/o Tom Phillips and Associates, sought the removal of the word ‘local’ from the designation of Gateway Suburban Local Centre, suggesting that it would otherwise lead to confusion, and also sought a footnote defining ‘Gateway Suburban Centre’ to allow for more flexible interpretation and a greater variety of retail outlets.

Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Greens) expressed a general concern that retail developments in smaller areas were “a relic of a by-gone time” and that “far from creating jobs, they have quite the opposite effect”. He said that “the effect of opening a retail development of this scale on other businesses and other businesses in Waterford city has to be taken into account” and he highlighted “a wider concern that we are the most over-retailed country in Europe.”

Other members felt that shopping centres could complement existing businesses, however.

“The difference is that the building is there – and it is a fabulous building and we need to get it open. It would enhance Waterford and South Kilkenny and it will complement the other businesses,” Cllr Cora Long (FF) said in reference to the Ferrybank Shopping Centre.

The council’s senior planner, Denis Malone, added that “Ferrybank is a suburban area of Waterford and needs a centre.” With 5,000 people, it is the second-largest area in Co Kilkenny, he said.

Cllr Fidelis Doherty (FG) said that “the opening of the centre is the most important thing for the people down there”, and Cllr Pat Dunphy (FG) added: “We are where we are. We can’t sit back and do nothing . ... Nobody wants the current situation as it is in Ferrybank. We are doing things to try and make this possible.”

Cllr Eamon Aylward (FF) said that “the Ferrybank Shopping Centre needs to be a viable entity into the future. ... I hope the steps we are taking today with this wording will help with that. Hopefully this will bring it in the right direction.”

And Cllr Anne-Maria Irish (FG) argued that the development would promote a more balanced development in the Waterford area.

“Ferrybank is an area that hasn’t had any development at all in terms of retail development,” she said. “Far from putting current businesses at risk, it will actually complement them and encourage people to stay in the area.”

The ‘material alteration’ was agreed by the council, with Cllr Noonan abstaining.