"If you had amateurs assessing the potential options” for the proposed Kildare-village style retail outlet centre in Cork, “they would do a better job” than has been done.
That’s according to Cork Business Association (CBA) chief executive Lawrence Owens, who has reiterated the organisation's opposition to the plans for the outlet centre near Carrigtwohill.
It comes as the group have made a submission to Cork County Council about its decision to vary the county development plan to clear the way for the retail project.
Mr Owens told The Echo that while he doesn’t dispute the retail model itself, he said the retail sector in Cork city is under increasing pressure, especially now, and needs to be protected and consolidated.
“Retail is in an extremely fragile position. So, rather than expanding out into the Carrigtwohill location, we should be trying to consolidate what we have.
“We should be trying to ensure that our city is secure and we keep as many businesses as we possibly can and we develop the city in terms of the potential that’s there - as opposed to creating another location for additional retail, which is only going to act as a counter-draw to Cork city,” Mr Owens said.
The CBA chief said the City was never considered as a potential site for the village, which he believes flies in the face of the Joint Metropolitan Retail Strategy which both the City and County Council’s commissioned.
“If I was to be very churlish I’d say the only people that will win out of this is Cork County Council in getting a commercial rate base,” Mr Owens said.
Listing the virtually empty shopping centre on North Main Street, the half empty upstairs in Merchant’s Quay shopping centre, and the now vacant Debenhams outlet on Patrick Street Mr Owens said the city should take priority.
Asked if the retail village could, however, impact positively on the Carrigtwohill or East Cork area, Mr Owens said that it could result in surrounding towns seeing the business “sucked out” of them.
“Newbridge does not benefit in any way, shape, or form, from having this (Kildare) outlet centre near it, neither from a hospitality or from a knock on effect in terms of people coming into the town.
“People go to these locations, they do what they have to do, they’re a one-stop-shop because they have the food, the retail, the whole environment and people go home. That’s the nature of the beast,” Mr Owens said.
He said that there is ample space for a centre like this within the wider confines of the city.
“It wasn’t even considered in the initial survey by Cork County Council. If you had amateurs assessing the potential options, they would do a better job than this.
“It seemed to be that they wanted this in the county, they chose a location and they wanted to make it work,” Mr Owens said.
He went on to add that the CBA are “absolutely not” against the creation of jobs, but are opposed to “the amount of employment we would lose within the city” due to the counter-balancing effect a potential retail village would have if placed outside of the city.
“The knock-on effects for Cork city would be significant.
“It just doesn’t make sense, and it makes less sense now than it ever did before,” Mr Owens concluded.