'Our door is always open to retailers'
The door is always open to the town's retailers and business people, according to Dundalk Town Council official David Storey.
He has heard all the complaints before regarding rates, pay-parking and accusations of in-action by the town council.
'We have one of the lowest rates in the country,' he said. 'Rates have been reduced by 12 per cent since 2007. We spent something in the region of €3 million on the rejuvenation of the Market Square and we have introduced the Business Incentive Development Schemes which provides a reduction of 50 per cent in the rates if a building has been vacant for two years.'
In addition, he pointed out that the BIDS office gives the town a valuable marketing tool which has resulted in high profile events such as the Jedward concert at the square, the Tain Festival, and the Night of Lights taking place while the farmers' market will be starting up again and running throughout the summer.
'We have an open door policy and want people to come in and talk to us,' he continued. They have already helped a number of businesses avail of the rates reduction for moving into premises which had been vacant for the previous two years, citing PetSafe as a company which has located here thanks to the BIDS scheme.
However, he said that people should have a viable business plan in place before they approach the council.
Pay-parking charges have been reduced from €1.30 to €1 an hour on the street, as well as long stay parking, with free parking over bank holiday weekends.
'We also reduce pay-parking from the start of December until January 8.'
He pointed out that while the charge is €1 an hour, people are not obliged to pay for a full hour if they are only parking for a short time.
'It's only 20 cents for 20 minutes'.
The money taken in through pay-parking goes back into the council's roads programme. 'We are the biggest urban area in the country and we need to have money to maintain our roads.'
The council has plans to upgrade the footpath on the lower end of Clanbrassil Street and on to Bridge Street depending on funding.
And he said that there is an onus on the town's retail and business community to take steps to help themselves.
'We've got the Shop Front Scheme yet since I've come here in 2007, that has never been fully subscribed and I can never understand why that money is never spent.'
'The council is there to support people but we can't do everything. If they come to us with an idea, we will see what we can do to help.'
'The Tidy Towns Committee has done great work but we would like to see that broadened out and more people getting involved.'
The council has to adhere to national policy in regard to planning issues, he said, which is why so much out-of-town development took place.
'It now seems that there is a drive on to get shops back into the town centre and create footfall but that will only happen if some sort of incentives are introduced so that people will start to re-invest in town centres.'