Colette Sheridan: Is a retail village in county Cork such a good idea?

Plans for a €100m retail outlet village at Carrigtwohill sound good right? But what impact will it have on the city, asks Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Is a retail village in county Cork such a good idea?

SHOPPERS TO THE READY: There are plans for a new retail village off the N25 - but should we be looking towards revitalising the city centre? Picture: Stock

IF you worship on the altar of consumerism and like nothing better than shopping to whittle away time and give yourself a dopamine hit, then you may just experience Nirvana if the proposed €100m retail outlet village at Carrigtwohill goes ahead. And what’s more, it should be great value as it is to sell out-of-season and end-of-line goods at discounted prices.

You may be one of those seriously dedicated consumers who regularly drives to Kildare Village in search of fashion or household goods.

But think of the carbon footprint. Hey, you’re just fulfilling your desire to indulge in a little retail therapy. What’s wrong with that, you might ask?

With plans for the County Cork retail village to be located off the N25 between Glounthane and Carrigtwohill, Corkonians will at least not have to travel up the country for their shopping fix. But if the village in East Cork goes ahead, it could have devastating effects on Cork city’s businesses.

Walk around town these days and you’ll see stores that have closed down such as Debenhams, and several more with notices of ‘trading ceased’ on windows.

It all contributes to a down-at-heel vibe in a city that prides itself on its image as the second largest (but ‘superior’) metropolis.

Some blame the cost of parking. They are not pleased with the announcement last week of increases in parking charges. As a pedestrian and bus user, I can’t quite understand why people who live relatively near Cork city bring their cars into town. That said, I’m always grateful for a lift, on rainy days. I’ll feel motorists’ pain when they shell out €2.70 an hour (the new charge planned for the Paul Street multi-storey car park.) It can make a night out at the theatre or cinema very expensive.

And people have to transport heavy bags of shopping, I hear you say, as you try to justify driving everywhere. Invest in a pull along shopping bag on wheels, which is quite liberating. I bought one recently for €30 and it’s almost as good as a car! Well, not quite. But it sure beats being laden down with heavy bags, trying to negotiate the bus. And besides, the bus can be interesting. An elderly man I met at a bus stop told me how he rarely comes to the south side but was en route to see a priest in Ballyphehane. For him, being ensconced north of the river was a source of pride. He was full of old guff about basically being a proud Norrie.

There is little doubt that an out-of-town retail village would have a negative effect on the city. 

Cork Business Association is “completely against” the proposed shopping development. It gives examples of “ample space” in the city centre for outlets with vacant units at the Savoy Shopping Centre, Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, the whole of the North Main Street Shopping Centre and the spacious Debenhams on Patrick Street.

The village would be visited by people mostly travelling to it by car, increasing the already unsustainable carbon footprint.

It’s not surprising, however, that Cork County Council is largely in favour of the retail village. A study commissioned by the County Council found that it could benefit the city’s economy and that it would be “an important asset to the wider southern region.”

The developers of the proposed shopping village say it would create 850 direct jobs as well as a further 640 jobs during the two-year construction period. They estimate it would attract 220,000 additional tourists to the region annually once it opened in March 2024. Those figures are good arguments in favour of the development. But when are we going to take the climate crisis seriously?

Yes, jobs are important but some Green Party councillors point out that the development would create a lot more vehicle journeys and say it’s a textbook example of unsustainable development.

Long term planning is important. Green Party Cork city councillor, Oliver Moran actually wants the Pana ban (whereby private cars are banned from 3pm-6.30pm) to begin mid-morning if the city’s proposed new bus network is to be a success. We all know that the Pana ban is being regularly flouted by motorists. But Cllr Moran says city centre traders now have a greater interest in supporting the bus priority measures. He correctly points out that: “The benefits of changes like greater pedestrianisation have proven itself to the city centre.”

Long live the dining out facilities on Princes Street. It’s not quite La Rambla in Barcelona. But it works well and gives the street a buoyancy that wasn’t there before.

If BusConnects is going to work, there needs to be a culture change in attitudes to public and active travel, says Cllr Moran. So many vested interests. So little time.

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