THERE were heated words by a number of borough councillors over a controversial planned leisure centre on High Street which has 1,500 students in it’s radius.
Melcorpo, who own the High Street Mall have applied for planning permission to develop a leisure facillity and coffee shop in the core of the city’s main street. The date for objections to the leisure centre proposal passed on April 27.
On Wednesday councillors were invited to a presentation by the developers and their anchor tenant Galaxy Leisure where a presentation was made. Karen Breheny, a company director explained to the councillors present that the meeting was a ‘briefing on the two applications’.
Under the proposals all the empty retail units will be amalgamated into a single property. There will be no change to the roofscape or to the front elevation. She added that a second planning application had been lodged in recent days for a cafe which would compliment the entertainment centre and provide lunches and cater for childrens’ parties.
Cllr Joe Malone accused the developers of ‘trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes’. “The first planning application went in in March and there was no application for the restaurant,” he said.
“There are 1500 students within a one-mile radius. You should be ashamed of yourself, trying to get money and not having a child protection policy in place. I am totally against it. It is wrong. You are dressing it up as a family entertainment centre and not as a gambling casino. The sole purpose is to take money off vulnerable children and adults. People have applied to go in there and have been refused and when they enquire they are told that the units are not available,” he added.
Cllr Joe Reidy (Fianna Fail) asked what the average total spend per child would be at such a centre. Martin Pauley of Galaxy Leisure, who plan to operate the city if it is given the green light explained that all the machines cost €1 per go, that the average total spend is between €12 and €14 and that the average play time is three and a half minutes. He added that there would be CCTV cameras in the centre and that security staff would be ‘dependant on activity’.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness (Fianna Fail) asked if there would be security at the centre at all times and Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin (Labour) asked Mr Pauley what child protection protocol would be in place in the centre. “Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to be left on their own. We insist that children of that age and under are with their parents. They are there to play and not to hang around,” he added. Cllr Ó hArgáin added that it was possible that parents would drop their children at the centre when they were doing their shopping and emphasised the importance that protocols be in place.
Cllr Martin Brett (Fine Gael) told the meeting that it was the first time that he could remember developers briefing councillors after a planning application had been lodged. “If you’re looking for goodwill then you went about it the wrong way. You handled yourself badly if you’re looking for goodwill from the people of Kilkenny,” he added.
The directors of Melcorpo were announced at the meeting as Karen Breheny, Paul Furlong, Nick Furlong and Norman Lyons.