Unease over retail space proposal for Kilkenny Abbey Quarter site

'What are the plans for that 75,000 sq ft?'

Sam Matthews


Sam Matthews




Brewhouse Abbey View

Concerns have been expressed over proposals to provide up to 75,000 sq ft of new retail space on the city’s former brewery site, the Abbey Quarter.

With city centre shops already under pressure, local councillors raised the issue during a presentation regarding the site at the October meeting of Kilkenny County Council.

“The 75,000 sq ft is retail? We met the retailers recently and they are worried about a drop in retail,” said Cllr John Coonan.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness also questioned the figure.

“That’s a huge concern to retailers who are already under pressure trying to keep their doors open,” he said.

“What are the plans for that 75,000 sq ft?”

Cllr Malcolm Noonan shared the concerns: “Can that be reduced?”he asked.

“I’m of the view that we shouldn’t be putting any retail on the site.”

Responding, CEO at Kilkenny Abbey Quarter Development Ltd Jason Clerkin said he was guided by the site masterplan.

“It’s simply looking at what the mix should be,” he said, adding that the intention was not to compete with existing traders, but that creating activity on the Abbey Quarter would push people up High Street and contribute to it.

“It is in our interest at all times to try and support the high street,” he said.

“The number is a general guide. We have no ambition to put anything in the Abbey Quarter that would be at odds with High Street.”

Chief Executive of Kilkenny County Council Colette Byrne reiterated a previous assertion that the masterplan was “not written in stone”.

“It does need to be revisited and reflect changes that we are aware of,” she said.

Ms Byrne said the aim was to achieve a balance, and this is “not necessarily about big retail”. She said without life on the streets, the plan would not deliver what was wanted, and it was about sustaining the city centre.

“There will be an opportunity when we revisit the masterplan to look at it, and we are currently preparing a county retail strategy,” she said.

Responding to queries regarding a third-level education facility, Ms Byrne said there remained an ambition to deliver such a campus. However, she said, the two relevant ITs need to progress their situation first.

In a further update, senior engineer Tony Lauhoff said the Mayfair building had now progressed to detail design stage for the new library.

Tenders have been received for the riverside garden project and a contractor will be appointed in the coming weeks. That will be a six-month project, and includes the development of a skatepark. A specialist sub-contractor, Spraoi Linn, will also be involved in the design of this, while local skaters have been taking part in consultation.

Design plans for a ‘cultural hub’ north of the River Breagagh on the site are also to be progressed, but Mr Lauhoff said there was an issue with access to this building without the proposed temporary carpark for the site.

Cllr Andrew McGuinness welcomed the update on the skatepark.

“In my opinion, we’ve let down a number of generations of young people in Kilkenny who’ve been crying out for this,” he said.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan asked if it was possible to include two elected members on the board of the Abbey Quarter Development Ltd. This suggestion did not receive support from the other elected members, and may not be possible the under the original terms of the partnership agreement.

Cllr David Fitzgerald asked for an update on proposals for housing on Sweeney’s Orchard. He again expressed concerns over the loss of parking in the Irishtown area .

Chief executive Colette Byrne said it was the council’s intention to revisit the issue of parking at that end of the city in order to bring tourists into the area. The issue of more long-term solutions, will be looked at as part of the overall parking strategy. She confirmed there was a residential proposal for Sweeney’s Orchard, although it presented ‘a particularly challenging site’.