Today, an article appears in the Sunday Independent which is based around Naas Town Centre and the struggle its retailers are enduring to save our town.
The article is titled: “New councils must act to stop rot, say shop owners” and I couldn’t agree more.
Up to 1 in 5 retail premises are now vacant in areas across the country and in Naas footfall is less than half what it was only a few years ago. Rates in Naas were set at a time when business was booming and have remained relatively unchanged since then. The rate system is archaic and won’t be changed by one council alone, but it’s something we must look for from National Government.
In the meantime, there is much that local government can and should do to both work with and support our retailers and encourage a revival in our towns. Some of the actions I’ve called for in a previous article on town centre development include simple suggestions such as establishing more family or cultural days in the town and a further roll-out of the free parking initiative during the week to encourage footfall back into our town centres.
We need to look at initiatives that prioritise development of retail within the town and encourage town centre living too. We can do this by engaging with the public on development plans and making our towns a more attractive and amenable place to live and work.
None of this can be done through dictation from local government. Nor can business owners be expected to shoulder the burden of recession alone. In order for our council to succeed, our retailers to prosper and our people to enjoy an improved community we must all work together over the coming years.
There’s a line in the Colliers retail marketing report on Naas which I feel is quite appropriate for any town looking to revive itself in the coming years:
“It is important that there is a greater coming together of stakeholders, especially between the councils and traders in the town centre. Our judgement is that there is a need for better communication and a more positive outlook on both sides, and determination to work together to improve things. There is no advantage on dwelling on what has and has not happened in the past. The only issue of relevance is how the town can be improved.”