Large retailers such as Tesco are still a possibility for the St Francis Abbey site if they are prepared to conform fully to the over-arching site plan, and there is an increase in retail demand.
At Tuesday’s public meeting, Martin Costello of Murphy’s Jewellers asked if there would be any space for large a large retailer on the site, given the rules for sequential testing. Retail Planning Guidelines state that the preferred location for retail development is within the established town centre, and only if none is available should an edge-of-centre location be considered.
“I hope we would provide for that possibility,” he said.
“Otherwise we will drive them out onto the mart site or on the edge of town.”
County manager Joe Crockett said the idea of a Tesco – or any other major retailer – had been considered at length by the council. But he also said that, at the moment, Kilkenny has a sufficient amount of shops to cater for the demand.
“We do not need another major retail space – the numbers don’t justify it,” he said.
“Between MacDonagh Junction and the city centre, we have enough.”
However, he acknowledged that if the economy changes and sees a dramatic uplift, and major companies move into the site create a large workforce, that position could change. But Mr Crockett also said that any retailer moving into the site would have to fully comply with the overall vision for the area.
He said if Tesco or any other retailer is prepared to conform to that built environment, they would be welcomed – if the consumer demand is there.
Architect Anthony Reddy agreed that the brewery site was not the place for a big box retailer with a carpark in front.
The county manager said that a balance of uses would be the key to ensuring the site’s sustainability.
“There will be retail, but it will happen organically,” he said.
“It will develop as the use of the site and need grows. You could easily see coffee shops along the river; it could be a place to sunbathe and have your ice cream similar to Castle Park now.”