Public meeting to be held on future of shopping in Kilkenny, and vacant premises concerns

Rent reviews, rates revaluations, and other issues have been highlighted in recent weeks

Sam Matthews

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Sam Matthews

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sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie

SHOPPING

It follows concerns over a number of recent shop closures, as well as general issues around rents and rates

Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council David Fitzgerald has announced he is to convene a meeting to encourage a debate around the future of shopping in Kilkenny, and premises in the city and county which have been left vacant.

The public meeting will take place on May 29, although a venue has yet to be confirmed.

It follows concerns over a number of recent shop closures, as well as general issues around rents and rates in the city and county. At a recent county council meeting, a number of local councillors said that some businesses going through difficult times should have their commercial rates linked to turnover rather than simply square footage.

Local authority performance indicators were discussed at the meeting, which heard Kilkenny County Council has the second-highest percentage level of collection of rates in the country. While councillors praised the efficiency of the collections, some expressed concerns about the number of vacancies in the city and county.

“I do also feel that businesses going through hard times it could be means tested, and not just a valuation based on premises,” said Cllr Breda Gardner.

“If the amount of money coming in and going out was means tested, it would just be fairer. I know it’s out of your hands.”

Cllr David Fitzgerald said that certain premises are based on turnover rather than square footage, such as pubs.

“There are a significant number of businesses struggling to pay rates simply because of turnover issues,” he said.

The council’s head of finance Martin Prendiville said Kilkenny had been through a difficult process during the recent revaluation. He said while some businesses had seen an increase, around 65% had actually seen a decrease. A number of ratepayers have availed of the appeals mechanism that exists.

“Roughly, 200 ratepayers have appealed,” he said.

Cllr Patrick McKee said that while rates were a consideration for businesses, there was also an issue of increasing rents, which was a matter between landlord and tenant, and the council couldn’t get involved. However, he said, when the crisis hit there should have been ‘rent pressure zones’ as with housing.

“I suspect a good number of businesses closed have faced rent reviews of a significant degree,” he said.

He said he wished to support Cllr Gardner in her comments about rates being linked to turnover.

“I don’t understand why a public house can pay based on income but the shop next door is [paying] on square footage.”