Council urged to limit number of bookmakers and fast-food outlets in Cork towns

Cork County Council is to look at ways it might try and prevent towns “suffering an increasing proliferation of bookmakers and fast-food outlets”. 

Fine Gael councillor Jack White won widespread support from colleagues when he said they should find ways to develop “a balance of businesses” in town centres, adding his hometown of Carrigaline “has enough fast-food businesses to keep us going until the cows come home”. 

Mr White said while it is important that some of these businesses are present to provide employment, “it is also vitally important that the commercial ecosystem is protected in towns, aiding smaller, local artisan producers to trade on main streets”. 

“For instance, we need more bookshops, cafes, restaurants,” he added.

Retail study

Fine Gael councillor John Paul O’Shea said a retail study was carried out by the council’s Economic Development Directorate on all the county’s towns some years ago and it needed revisiting.

He said the council has to “incentivize” certain types of businesses setting up on certain streets.

“A broader discussion is needed to improve commercial activity in our town centres going forward,” he said.

Fine Gael councillor Marie O’Sullivan, who runs a café/restaurant in Kinsale, said small, independent retailers are essential to the heart of towns and need more support.

“It’s very obvious in Carrigaline what we have and would we like to see there. We need to support smaller businesses. There are things that we can do. We are the elected representatives and should have more of a say,” Fine Gael councillor Michael Paul Murtagh said.

‘Healthy retail mix’

Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath said the proliferation of some types of businesses had been discussed when councillors put together the latest County Development Plan, but he agreed the council should be prepared to look further at the issue.

“It is complex though. We want to encourage a healthy retail mix,” he said.

Fine Gael councillor Sinead Sheppard said in her hometown of Cobh, there are a lot of derelict buildings which could be turned into retail premises.

She said the council should offer incentives, such as rates rebates, to homegrown artisan-type businesses if they converted such buildings into shops. 

Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the government is currently finalising a National Town Centres policy. He said his officials will look at it as it could aid local authorities with potential restrictions on planning permissions to ensure there isn’t an over-proliferation of some businesses and ensure a better mix of outlets.

Mr Lucey said the council would take onboard some of the comments made by councillors. He added that the council is also “putting an increased emphasis on property reactivation”.

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