Cool Response To Fianna Fáil Proposals


Fianna Fáil have published plans aimed at revitalising village and town centres across the North County. This comes hot on the heels of party leader, Micheál Martin meeting with Dublin Chamber last week.
The proposals, with which local senator, Darragh O’Brien is in full agreement, include radical steps to boost economic and social activity in towns and villages like Malahide, Swords, Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush and Lusk. They include reducing commercial rates for new village based businesses and those in key areas, and a commercial rates surcharge of 15 per cent on out-of-town shopping centres.
“This surcharge at out-of-town centres is not about parking – it’s a commercial rates charge on the development itself. This will help to level the playing field where competition is concerned. So there is no impact on customers,” claimed O’Brien.
They also propose a 90 minutes free parking in local villages and disincentives to prevent landlords from leaving units vacant or rendering them unrentable.
The measures are aimed at supporting local businesses to allow them to compete with large out-of-town shopping centres, and encouraging people to shop and socialise in local villages.
The County Leader spoke to some of the stakeholders, including the County Council and local chambers of commerce to find out if the plan was viable.
The County Council appeared to slam the door firmly on the Fianna Fail proposal in relation to rates. A spokesperson said, “The Members have a reserved function under the LG Reform Act 2014 to decide on the level of rates refunds that apply to commercial rated properties that are vacant. At present, a 100 per cent refund applies if the standard conditions are met (vacant when rate is made, available for letting etc.). A 50 per cent refund applies for example in the city and balance of rates are payable, if properties are vacant.”
The statement continued, “Rates are assessed on the basis of the valuation of properties as determined by the Commissioner of Valuation and on the “rate” as determined by the Members at the Annual Budget Meeting. It should be noted that only one rate for the County can be made. Both issues, including that of free parking, will form part of the budgetary process. The Annual Budget Meeting is scheduled for the 3rd November.’
CEO of Fingal Dublin Chamber, Tony Lambert was less than enthusiastic about the proposals, He said, “Now that we are starting to see increased activity in our area, the County Council should encourage this further by ensuring that there are no increased charges for businesses. We need to encourage businesses to create more jobs and this cannot be done if there are increased overheads. Let us build on the growth that’s happening and encourage local people to eat and shop locally,” he said.
President of Skerries Chamber, Martin Scully said, ”As regards rates, we have been looking for a reduction for years, and I agree with it. However, I am not in favour of putting a surcharge on other businesses, just because they happen to be located in a shopping centre. Rates are high enough, without raising them even further,” he said. Scully agreed that 90 minutes free parking is a good idea, which is ample time to get shopping done.
Any more than that would not be good, as we need a rotation of cars in order to encourage shopping – not cars clogging up parking space. There should also be free off-street parking for staff, who should not be penalised for coming into work.”
President of Malahide Chamber, Barry Gibney was of a similar view to that of Scully. He said, “I agree with much of what Darragh O’Brien is suggesting. “The idea of reducing commercial rates is a good idea, as the council increased them during recessionary times. A 20 per cent reduction would be a great incentive. I think the 90 minutes free parking is a good idea, as it would encourage shopping, and we might end up with less shops being closed down. After all, out of town shopping centres offer free parking to their customers,” he said.
Chris Harmon, speaking on behalf of Balbriggan Chamber of Commerce welcomed the proposal to see 90 minutes free parking in town centres, to enable people to shop and to conduct business. He said, “On-street parking is a very big issue in town centres. This is the root problem that shops and businesses face, not only in the North County, but nationwide. We don’t want to see tenants in out of town shopping centres being penalised, but the on-street parking problem needs to be resolved before anything can happen,” he said.
O’Brien explained, “Villages like my own local village of Malahide have been the heart of communities in North County Dublin for decades. Despite having so much to offer in terms of shopping, restaurants and amenities, our villages are suffering due to changes in shopping trends and out-of-town shopping centres.”
“Sadly it is becoming increasingly difficult for local businesses to compete with large centres for a variety of reasons. That is why I have set out radical proposals to address some of the problems, to reverse the sense of decline and bring back the vibrancy of our local villages,” he said.
“For our local villages to survive and grow, it must have a clear vision for the future and a concrete framework for growth. We need strong teams of community leaders that are working together to drive that growth and bring jobs back to our village centres.