Dundalk town centre is struggling to survive because of a real lack of guidance on retail planning, according to Green Party Cllr Mark Dearey.
Cllr Dearey is chairman of the town council’s planning committee and he was reacting to the news that the Penneys outlet at the Longwalk Shopping Centre is to close. This week Cllr Dearey criticised retail planning in the town describing it as having been led by developers and stating that it time to change things.
The councillor said even though the closure of the Penneys outlet at the Longwalk has not been a surprise, it is another example of business moving from the Clanbrassil Street centre of the town to The Marshes Shopping Centre when there is no actual link-up between The Marshes and the town centre.
“We need to re-think our whole outlook on planning,” Cllr Dearey said.
“The town centre needs rejuvenation. We need to develop a new town centre.
“As chair of the council’s planning MPC, I want to reverse decisions that have been made and re-write chapter four of the town’s development plan before the town council is wound up this May.
“The town is being pulled south. There is no link between the Marshes and Clanbrassil Street and this is certainly regrettable,” he said.
A walk-through retail plaza link at Williamson’s Mal failed to get planning approval so the two main shopping areas remain far apart.
Cllr Dearey feels that retail planning strategy for the town centre will have to change radically if it is to survive.
“We need to include small businesses when thinking about planning for the town centre,” he said.
“We need software and other businesses. Every single shop will not be occupied.”
He has also called for better use of the Town Hall when the change in local government is implemented next May.
The Town Hall is the nerve centre of the town council. But the town council will be abolished in May and already many services, including town housing, have been moved to the County Council Millennium offices at Alphonsus Road.
Cllr Dearey wants other services centred in the Town Hall and believes town centre footfall could be strengthened by maintaining it as an iconic building and business centre.