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Thursday 21 August 2014

Councils are 'decimating' our town centres - ISME tells TDs

Colm Kelpie

Published 02/07/2014 | 00:00

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ISME chief Mark Fielding. Photo: Mark Condren
ISME chief Mark Fielding. Photo: Mark Condren

COUNCILS are neglecting town centres across the country and making them difficult and expensive places for shoppers and retailers, ISME said.

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Business leaders said politicians claim they were "bamboozled" by big developers and glitzy multinationals who led the charge in developing out-of-town shopping hubs.

The sense of "decay" felt in towns and villages across the country must be addressed, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association told TDs. "Town and city councils seem to go out of their way to make town centres difficult and expensive places in which to develop and operate," ISME chief Mark Fielding said.

"They have neglected them over the past twenty years and continue to harass the few remaining shoppers with clampers, impose unsustainable charges on retailers and allow vacant shops to turn into 
eyesores."

Mr Fielding, addressing the Oireachtas Jobs and Enterprise Committee, said newly elected councillors must be made aware of the link between a supportive local authority in relation to a town or village centre, and business revival.

"The long term outcome is a vibrant town and increased revenue all around," he said.

ISME accused councils of a lack of foresight and said their "eagerness to grab the shilling" had left towns "decimated".

The lobby group called on the Government and councils to encourage the formation of town teams to drive town centre economies.

Disincentives should also be imposed to prevent long-term vacant units and "over-aggressive" parking policies should be scrapped, ISME said.

"Local neighbourhood centres where all services could be availed of are closing. We have sacrificed communities for perceived convenience," Mr Fielding said.

Chambers Ireland last week also called on government to introduce measures to support business growth and job creation in town centres and villages.

It called for adequate supports for those doing business, fair public procurement policies and other measures.

Last year, Fianna Fail tabled a bill aimed at revitalising town centres. One of the core elements included the development of town teams, which required each council to come up with a revitalisation plan.

Other measures included revamping the commercial rates system, changing the parking charges structure, cultural initiatives to keep main streets busy and scrapping upward only rent reviews.

Irish Independent

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