SHANNON Town Centre is “dying on its feet” due to the increase in shop closures, a local town councillor has claimed.
Councillor Cathy McCafferty has warned that “Skycourt is a pale shadow of itself” as people expressed concern about “what shop is closing next”.
Addressing a recent Shannon Town Council meeting, Councillor McCafferty asked what practical measures Clare County Council is taking to advance and implement the objectives in relation to Shannon Town Centre, as set out in Section Five of the Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018.
Expressing concern about the threat hanging over 15 jobs in Xtra-vision, she suggested the management of the town centre should meet local councillors to work together for the betterment of the town.
Stating the cost of doing business in Shannon is too high, she claimed local companies are paying one of the highest commercial rates in the county.
Despite the fact that Shannon is the second-largest town in Clare and has about one-third of the biggest ratepayers, the independent councillor alleged that the county council makes little or no investment in the area.
“What is the county council going to do to get businesses back into Shannon Town Centre,” she asked.
“As public representatives, we have to know what is happening to our town centre. Our traders are suffering, our town is suffering. Shannon is not getting the services it deserves, even though it is the second-biggest town in Clare,” she added.
Councillor Gerry Flynn warned if the council is depending on the private sector for investment, “nothing would happen in a hurry”, apart from the new arts centre.
While Councillor Patricia McCarthy acknowledged that urgent action is needed to halt the demise of the town centre, she couldn’t support the wording of Councillor McCafferty’s motion.
Instead, Councillor McCarthy proposed the town council should seek an urgent meeting with the owners of Skycourt to discuss the future of the centre. The independent councillor pointed out that a meeting with the management wouldn’t be very productive, as they would have to go back to the owners before any definitive commitment or decisions could be made.
She expressed grave concern about the high turnover of shops in the town centre, which are opening and closing within a short space of time.
Mayor of Shannon, Greg Duff, proposed a meeting should be organised with all the stakeholders in Shannon, the county council, management and owners of Skycourt, the new Shannon Airport Authority, Shannon Development and any other relevant party involved in the development of the town.
Councillor Flynn asked what will happen to the Shannon Development building once its functions are subsumed into other bodies and suggested a senior planner from the county council should be at the meeting.
Councillor Seán McLoughlin suggested a meeting should be held with all stakeholders to form an action plan for the town centre.
Senior executive planner, Brian McCarthy, confirmed the council would begin to proactively open a dialogue in the near future with landowners, retailers and business groups to fully examine mechanisms that will assist in bringing forward and delivering the development of town centre sites, as well as the redevelopment of underutilised or opportunity sites for appropriate town centre development.
Commenting on the provision of a proposed arts centre, Mr McCarthy noted a prominent site in the town centre has recently been tendered and the successful bidders propose to build an arts, civic and community centre.
Four months after the adoption of the Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan, he recalled a Green Infrastructure Plan for Shannon was prepared.
This plan delivers integrated and coherent proposals encouraging walking, cycling and recreation to enhance existing and develop new linkages between residential areas, the industrial zone, airport and Shannon Town Centre.