KCC and the councillors should listen to the people of Naas

Retailers under pressure

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

KCC and the councillors should listen to the people of Naas

Kilcullen Road, Naas: There's uproar over a plan to remove these car park spaces

In a normal world there would be no difficulty with this. And no objections and no petitions of opposition.

What’s not to like about a cycle lane unless you want to treat the road as your own fiefdom?

It gets you out of a car or a bus, saves money on fuel, eases the environmental burden, reduces waste. (So does walking — without the need for lanes). But there’s not much that’s normal about the environment that retailers operate in in Naas town.

They open their businesses in the eye of a storm day after day.

Superquinn closed in February 2011 and over 100 jobs disappeared. Before that, in 2010, Tesco brought its largest store in Europe to Monread, with a shopping centre and free parking; taking customers in their thousands from the town. Marks & Spencer cut and run in 2013 after a six year stint on Dublin Road. It was one of four stores the company closed that August and 37 jobs were lost in Naas.

There have been many others, often smaller stores some of which employed one or two people.

The music died in Naas in May 2012. John Forde had two people employed in his top Twenty Store when he felt he had no option to bring the shutters down on Naas’s only music store.

Last week the Leader reported on the demise of Ciaran Mattimoe’s Londis store. Today there are only two foodstores along the length of the main thoroughfare.

There’s been a slow growth in the number of charity shops around the town but these are not likely to trigger a retail revolution in Naas of the Kings.

The town is in trouble and everybody knows it; including Kildare County Council which hasn’t increased rates in a decade now. (Sure KCC has a countywide jurisdiction but Naas Town Council had frozen rates before it was abolished.) The Naas Shopping Centre hasn’t opened partly due to the economic crash and partly due to Dunnes Stores' decision not to become the anchor tenant.

The town lost a town centre car park, which was never replaced. It’s easy now to blame NTC for this decision. At the time the development of the vast concrete tomb in the town centre was an innovative proposition and nobody objected to it. It would have brought the thousands back to Naas. Between the loss of the car park, parking fees and levies not paid NTC, now KCC, is owed millions of euro — with no immediate prospect of having it paid.

The Leader has also reported on Larry Swan and Pat Goulding respective owners of Swan’s on the Green and the eponymous hardware store.

They fear they may have to close if car spaces go and cycle lanes are put in. Goulding’s is the town’s last hardware store and Swan’s employs more than 40 people. The cycle lanes are the idea of the National Transport Authority which implements overall transport policy in the Greater Dublin area — from Drogheda to Arklow. They don't have the time to care about retailers in Naas.

Too many businesses have closed to take a chance on two more. And too many parking spaces have gone. It’s time for the politicians to represent the people they’re supposed to represent and most of their constituents would side with Messrs Swan and Goulding.

All that has to be done is for KCC to say to the NTA “thanks, but no”.

There is no guarantee that cycles lanes will be used anyway. Naas is not Copenhagen where there are more bikes than cars. Most lanes in Naas are under utilised.

“Build them and they’ll come” we’re told. They built Naas Shopping Centre and nobody came.