Several Carrick-on-Suir councillors have threatened to vote against their town’s new development plan if it doesn’t include a provision to make a retail park that has lain empty for six years more attractive for businesses to locate there.
Fianna Fail Cllr Kieran Bourke, Fine Gael Cllr Margaret Croke and Independent Cllr Richie O’Neill gave notice at the Council’s latest meeting that they will not support the new Town Development Plan if it doesn’t feature a provision to promote the Tinvane Retail Business Park on the Pill Road.
The retail park was the subject of a long running and acrimonious controversy in Carrick-on-Suir a few years ago after retail chain Heatons was prevented from opening a store there because the zoning of the site only permitted retail businesses selling bulky goods like furniture to locate there.
In 2010, the Town Council changed the zoning of two of the units at the retail park from retail warehousing for bulky goods to “comparison” retailing making it possible for stores selling household goods, clothing, footwear and stationery to set up shop there.
The draft Carrick-on-Suir Development Plan for 2013 to 2019 was being discussed by councillors at the Town Council’s recent monthly meeting when Cllr Bourke stood up and declared he was disappointed the plan wasn’t addressing the vacant buildings at Tinvane Business Park.
“ Those buildings are the same as they were six years ago and I see nothing happening there. I won’t be supporting this development plan in its present form while nothing is done about these buildings.”
Cllr Croke said she wouldn’t be supporting the Development Plan for the same reason and pointed out that a lot of councillors around the table got votes on this issue at the last council election.
Cllr O’Neill said there was a big population in this area of the town and the retail buildings in Tinvane were going to waste. He wouldn’t be supporting the plan until there was some provision for this business park.
But Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, who campaigned for Heatons to be allowed locate at Tinvane and spearheaded the change of zoning for part of the retail park, pointed out the Council couldn’t force businesses to locate there.
“I agree it has been left vacant but it’s not through any fault of the Council. We can’t make people go in there,” she pointed out.
She also pointed out that the Development Plan was still only at the draft stage and members of the public as well as councillors could still submit proposals to include in it.
She said she was looking forward to the suggestions the public will submit for inclusion in the plan.
Labour Cllr Sarah Dunne agreed. She said it was up to the person in charge of the retail park to make any changes rather than the Council.
Cllr Bourke responded that he wasn’t interested in what the developer as going to submit to the Town Development Plan.
“This is what I as a public representative want in this Development Plan. I have nothing in common with the developer only that we share the same profession,” he said.
“I have been approached by numerous people who voted for me asking me what the hell is going on with Tinvane Park. I got elected partly on promoting this business park. I feel personally that something needs to be enshrined in a plan going forward for the next six years.”
However, Cllr Cooney-Sheehan countered that this business park was owned by a developer and she wasn’t going to impose anything in relation to it.
She pointed out that they did fight hard to get the zoning changed with the support of the people and businesses of the town. She said she was on the Council as a representative of the people, which meant taking on board the views of the developer but also the business people of Carrick-on-Suir.
Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin, meanwhile, said a lot of Irish towns had (retail) developments around their edges while the town centres were falling apart. The centre of the town had to be looked after first, he declared.
After Cllr Cooney-Sheehan proposed that the draft Development Plan go out to public consultation, Cllr Bourke intervened and proposed that it wouldn’t happen until “something positive” was done about Tinvane.
The issue was put to a vote and six members voted in favour of beginning the public consultation process and Cllrs Bourke, Croke and O’Neill voted against.
The draft Development Plan is on public display at Carrick-on-Suir Town Hall and South Tipperary Co. Council headquarters in Clonmel until February 11 and members of the public are invited to make submissions.