A RETAIL development is the most suitable use for Kilkenny’s old mart site to further develop that side of the city, according to some members of Kilkenny Borough Council.
At the December meeting of the borough council, Cllr Jimmy Leahy (FG) told he members
“I know retail in the city centre will make the case that we have plenty of shops already, but in relation to the mart site, i can’t see what other development could go into that other than retail,” he said.
“It mightn’t be all retail, there could be a green belt. But I think it’s important to get an anchor in there and develop that side of town. I can’t see the mart being fit for purpose for anything else.”
Mayor of Kilkenny Sean O’ hArgain, who chaired the meeting, also suggested he would support such a move.
“I concur with Cllr Leahy, something needs to be done with that site urgently,” said Mayor O’ hArgain.
“With the hoardings, it is an eyesore and we need to address it. I also think John Street has been neglected for some time. The development of the Evans Home and a new library offer an opportunity to revitalise John Street.”
Senior planner Dennis Malone said that the prior retail strategy had been produced in 2007, under a different set of economic circumstances. He said
“As far as I can tell, major retailers are still interested in coming to Kilkenny,” he said.
“If a multiple comes in – what does that bring to the city? We have 74,000 square metres of retail floor space for a population of 25,000 people. Waterford has 110,000 for a population of 45,000 people.”
Cllr David Fitzgerald (FG) asked whether more land should be zoned for retail, or whether instead a rezoning process should begin.
Green Party Cllr Malcolm Noonan said that there was sufficient retail options already.
“I think we have long reached capacity for city centre and out of town retail,” he said.
“We need to protect the retail core of the city. We have still a large proportion of family owned businesses. It is something different to offer and hugely important that we protect it.”
A number of councillors opined that the last retail strategy report, produced by DTZ, had been of very little value. Mr Malone said that the new strategy would be formulated totally in-house, with no outside consultants involved.
Thr borough council has also made plans to accomodate an increased housing stock, despite a steep fall in demand for new houses and the large number of dwellings which are presently vacant. Fresh data from the National Housing Construction Index shows the overall number of Kilkenny planning applications is down by 31% on the figure for last year. The 2011 index showed an 8% drop in applications submitted.
“We will be in need of 115 new houses each year?” asked Cllr Joe Reidy, regarding the projected figures.
Denis Malone said housing strategy would require careful thought, given the limited funds now available.
“People are still forming households,” he said.
“The population of the city is still growing. How do we cater for that demand? In the western environs, we need to put in infrastructure, but we don’t have the money now. What do we do?”