Action Needed on Town Centres

Gearóid at Market Place in Clonmel
Gearóid at Market Place in Clonmel

The politics of facilitating developers means that the state serves those who shout the loudest or who are best connected, instead of what is best for the public. It also leads to bad decisions about where to site housing or services with consequences clear from the recent floods.
On Saturday January 23rd, Tipperary Greens engaged in a canvass at Clonmel Farmers’ Market with election candidate Gearóid Fitzgibbon. Businessman and founder of Longways Cider, James O’Donoghue said that the team found people were very receptive, raising issues which included support for small farmers and local food producers. After the canvass, local members took me on a tour of the town centre and Market Place Shopping Centre. This large retail development anchored around a Super Valu (formerly Superquinn) outlet, shut last week with the loss of over 40 jobs – another loss of jobs in the market place area, where previously many businesses employed in excess of 100 people.

High rates and parking charges, along with a lack of footfall are contributing to this town centre’s demise and the issues affecting Clonmel are similar to those in other parts of the county where the over-supply of edge of town shopping (which benefit from easy access and free parking), squeezes the lifeblood from the town centres.

Unless we want our town centres to become ghost towns, local authorities must rebalance the scales in favour of town centres and small locally owned businesses. This can be done by make rates fairer and reducing parking charges, which are in effect a penalty on centre of town business. Parking charges and high commercial rates helped address local authorities lack of income as a result of the scrapping of local rates as an election stunt in 1977. With property tax now funding local authorities, it is overdue time to review parking charges and the rates system.
“In the longer term” says Con Traas, local Green Chair, “Tipperary Greens are seeking to fundamentally change attitudes to development. The current model favours larger over smaller, and multinational over local business, and all the while too many politicians seem prepared to vote in favour of any development which might lead to a ribbon-cutting event that gets their pictures in the paper. Councils need to actively reverse this, as well as increasing the provision of quality housing in and close to our historic and beautiful town centres.”

The Greens are the only party in the country with a clear record on planning. We have consistently opposed the kind of bad planning which puts houses, shops and services in the wrong places and creates a car dependant culture. Good urban planning creates human scale towns, with housing near shops and services.
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