Thursday, March 12, 2009

County Councillors Feigning Shock!

I do not like having to point to short-comings amongst my colleagues in the Council world but I have to say that I am less than impressed with what can only be described as the 'shennanigans' of some of those members of Waterford County Council in recent days over their alleged 'shock' and 'disappointment' at the Bord Pleanala decision to (correctly) point out that TK Maxx do not have permission for the type of retailing that they have been engaged in at the Butler Retail Park.

Were the Councillors either not aware of the zoning of Retail Warehousing (which allows only the sale of bulky goods) or did they not understand it? I think neither is the case. They are both well aware of the zoning and of what it means and indeed were well aware that TK Maxx were therefore trading incorrectly. The feigned amazement therefore, is astounding and dishonest as far as I am concerned. That is not even to mention the disgraceful personal attacks that have been made in relation to the appellant in this matter - who has been vindicated and found to be correct.

The type of retailing that TK Maxx are doing i.e. clothes and shoes etc. is in direct competition with the City Centre of Waterford and does not, as has been claimed 'create new jobs'. What is, in fact happening is that jobs are simply being displaced. They are being lost in the City Centre and replaced in the suburbs. Look at the evidence.

I do not argue that TK Maxx are an attractive retailer for some and attract shoppers but they must be located in a place where they compliment and do not threaten the city centre or jobs. We need competition, but not unfair competition. That is the current challenge.

The Butlerstown Retail Park is directly outside the administrative boundary of Waterford City. The other tenants seeking to locate there, named as Mothercare and Argos, both have shops in the City Centre which would obviously have been affected by this move.

It is good and correct planning - and a strategy that has been accepted by all Councils in the South East including Waterford County Council, that the primacy of Waterford City must be underlined. Why the shock then, when that policy is upheld?

We have many threats to our City - and be in no doubt but that if competition of this nature is allowed outside the centre, then the City will die. The rents are cheaper (often free for large, well-known anchor tenants) and there is free parking. And we will all be crying about the City being a wasteland and everybody compelled to use cars. These are the facts and the international evidence in there for all to see.

The sooner our neighbouring Councils start acting upon regionally adopted strategies and stop trying to decimate Waterford City Centre, the better. And I include in this, Kilkenny County Council and their plans to get Town Centre status for Ferrybank(!) as well as the development of a ridiculously large shopping centre in Ferrybank in which everyone knows, they want to put as much shopping as is in the City Centre (and which in my opinion will be a white elephant).

Waterford County Council and Kilkenny County Council have put no investment into Waterford City or its suburbs and yet they seek not only to benefit from our population but more than that, to compromise the very future our small City and its 1,100 year exsistence!

All this, in my humble opinion, underlines the need for updated boundary extension procedures. Although I know this is a contentious issue, there must be some way of merely extending the administrative area of one Council into another, while still allowing that area to remain in its original County and still allowing the people to vote in the original area. After all, most political objections are based on the issue of loss of electoral area votes rather than any strategic or planning issues.

No comments: