PLANS for a large amusement arcade in the city centre have been given the green light, overruling a prior rejection by Kilkenny Borough Council, and provoking outcry from local businesses.
Last week, An Bord Pleanala granted permission for the arcade to go ahead in the High Street Mall, rejecting the recommendation of the inspector to refuse it. All the empty retail units are to be amalgamated into a single property, and a change of use will take place.
The borough council previously turned down Melcorpo’s original application because of the “non-desirable nature” of its use, and because the scheme would entail the loss of hundreds of metres of prime city centre retail space. Councillors also expressed reservations over the opening hours of the entertainment centre, and said there was insufficient information supplied regarding noise levels.
Local councillor Joe Malone has expressed fears due to the large number of schools in the vicinity, and young students. He says that gambling is already a problem in the city, and this would not improve matters.
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“This is a bad day for Kilkenny City; it is very wrong,” he said.
“In addition, Bord Failte has spent good money to develop a Medieval spine, and now we will have a huge casino right at the heart of it. It’s not good enough that nameless, faceless people in An Bord Pleanala can do this, without meeting the borough council, or seeking the opinion of anyone on the ground in Kilkenny.”
Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce, which represents many local businesses, has said it is “astonished and extremely disappointed” at An Bord Pleanala’s decision. The organisation has said that the move flies directly in the face of promoting the city’s rich heritage and culture.
“This decision sends all the wrong signals especially to visitors and tourists alike of what shopping and life in Kilkenny is about in 2013,” said Chamber president Donie Butler.
Nolan’s Jewellers is one of the last remaining occupied units in the High Street Mall. Its owner, Seamus Nolan, has said he is incredibly angry with how the situation has been handled from the beginning.
He fears that the arcade will attract the wrong type of crowd and detract from the city generally. He also feels that retailers have not been treated fairly.
The only recourse for opponents of the project now is to seek a judicial review of the An Bord Pleanala decision. This must be done within eight weeks.
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