'Disturbing' - Reaction to Edenderry having highest commercial vacancy rate in Ireland
There has been widespread condemnation in Edenderry after it was revealed the town has the highest number of empty business premises in the entire country.
Offaly’s commercial vacancy rate increased by 0.3 percentage points (pp) to 15.5% in the second quarter of 2019 according to the latest GeoView Commercial Vacancy Rates Report published by GeoDirectory today.
Edenderry's commercial vacancy rate of 28.8%, is the highest in the country and almost double that of Birr (15.8%).
Edenderry's rate is an increase of 3.1% on the same time last year. Ballybofey, Co. Donegal (28%) and Kilrush, Co. Clare (26.5%) also posted high vacancy rates. Greystones in Co. Wicklow posted the lowest commercial vacancy rate in the country at 5.8%.
Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick described the revelations as "disturbing" but told the Offaly Express that "this is something that was very much to the forefront of the Regional Spatial and Economic Plan which was adopted by the members of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly back in June."
"Discussions took place about this very issue; how we in the Midland region would attract business into towns such as Edenderry and other towns in this region (Laois Longford and Westmeath) because we are on the outer circle of the greater Dublin area."
"It sure is a very disturbing article for this area and how we attract large companies into Edenderry is something that has been discussed many times at Municipal District meetings," Cllr Fitzpatrick added.
Newly-elected Green Party councillor Pippa Hackett described the vacancy rate as "very disappointing," adding that the issue is something she has highlighted for quite a while, both before and after her election to Offaly County Council in May.
Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (URHA), which was signed into law in July 2015, Local Authorities are required to establish and maintain a Vacant Sites Register.
Cllr Hackett said: "It appears that Offaly County Council has not yet properly engaged with this process. A quick search on the councils website reveals no sites at all on that particular register. A similar requirement is required for Derelict Sites, and an examination of that register online, shows that to August 2018, there were only 22 properties listed, with only three in the whole Edenderry Electoral Area."
"Any sites on either register should, after a time, be subject to a levy. If a property is not listed on the register, then a levy cannot be applied. So where is the incentive to get such a property back in use?" she pondered.
"The Green Party proposed an increase in the levy on derelict sites from 3% to 7%, to encourage the owners of these properties to either out them to use, sell them, or pay for the luxury of owning them."
"These vacant and derelict properties are not only unsightly and potentially dangerous, but they are also doing nothing to encourage people to visit or stay in our towns. They are also stunting economic growth and development in our county, when so much is now needed."
"We cannot have a situation where property owners can essentially just abandon their properties, without consequence. The legislation is already in place to deal with such sites - it’s time Offaly County Council started to apply them. As a new councillor, this is something I intend to keep on the council’s agenda," she concluded.
Cllr. Robert Mc Dermott said that “while it is not good to read about your town in this light, you could also turn this into a positive in that Edenderry is so close to Dublin, the second biggest town in Offaly and we are open for business."
"There is a well-educated workforce here and if anyone is thinking of opening a business in the town there are a lot of options for them. We have three “rent a desk” hubs recently opened in the town. This is a great opportunity for anyone thinking of setting up a business. The offices are modern and spacious, and all have Wi-Fi on-site. Hopefully people who rent these will go on to expand their business. Three local employers have taken on employees this summer. You can see that Edenderry has a lot to offer potential investors.”
Cllr Mc Dermott went on to mention that the Fianna Fail Local Election Manifesto concentrated a lot of Rural Ireland and the regeneration on Rural Ireland, including high-speed broadband and 'Town Teams' aimed at revitalising town and village centres.
Fine Gael councillor Noel Cribbin said: "It's very disappointing to be the head of this particular stat, however, I feel that despite its findings, there are more shops open on the Main Street than last year."
"On a quick headcount out of 100 addresses on our Main Street, there’s over 80 businesses, and about 20 homes or flats. Unfortunately, we have about 18 shop units on Father Mc Wey Street that were never used or even ready to open, along with Tesco, Mattie’s, the business park. So for me, 80 out of 100 is very good and several new businesses since last year. I am not sure what the purpose of these particular findings is but they certainly do not do Edenderry any good," Cllr Cribbin concluded.