BY JACKIE KEOGH and KIERAN O’MAHONY
OTHER towns in West Cork are ‘having money pumped into them’ but funding for Bantry seems to be sadly lacking, according to Sarah O’Shea, manager of The Stuffed Olive restaurant.
‘The town centre in Bantry isn’t as nice as other towns because nothing has been spent on it for such a long time, and the road surfaces are a disgrace.’
As the manager of a business that has known the hardship of having to deal with repeated water breaks, Sarah also said Irish Water needs to fix the town’s unreliable water supply system.
Neill Clarke, a property consultant, made the point that in a very short period of time there will be a scarcity of good quality housing in Bantry.
‘The problem is that the town is low-lying with high ground all around it. It means that planning is restricted because of that,’ said Neill, who said builders regularly complain about the high costs associated with building in Bantry before they ever break ground.
Andrew Campbell of The Cookware Company in Bantry is of the opinion that the decision to abolish Town Councils has been a disaster for Bantry because now the town is ‘too far removed from the decision making process.’
He said: ‘Lack of local spending continues to spoil the town with small infrastructure projects continually being mended and patched. Parking continues to be an issue with lack of space cited by visitors as a reason for not stopping.’
Speaking as a local businessman, Andrew said: ‘We pay excessive rates and see little return. If the Council is not going to maintain our roads and streets or clean them, then the government should insist that Councils rebate rates. And I would also like to see USC scrapped for low earners.’
Martin Kelleher, who runs Kelleher Property Services in Clonakilty, feels that the lack of houses is one of the major issues that needs to be tackled and he is calling on a ‘VAT holiday’ for new houses as the supply of houses is just not enough.
‘A VAT holiday of maybe two years would create an immediate impact and it would become more viable for builders to build. The big problem is the supply of houses and a VAT holiday would work in certain locations,’ Martin told The Southern Star.
Martin has also noticed that landlords are leaving the rental market as it has become less attractive to be a landlord.
‘The solution to bring more rental properties on the market is to drop the USC on the rental income of the properties for landlords. When you’re a landlord you can claim 70% of your mortgage interest payable against your tax bill. However, if you’re a landlord of social housing you’re allowed 100% relief of your mortgage interest and this should be extended across the board.’
Martin would also like to see the Budget make it more attractive for the self-employed and for those thinking of setting up their own business.
‘There are lots of empty shops which could be ideal for new businesses but the problem is that there is a lack of safety nets for people if things don’t work out.’
Sinéad O’Crowley, who runs An Sugán and Arís Café & Wine Bar in the town, feels that more funding should be invested in training for the hospitality industry and also called for the retention of the VAT rate of 9% for food and drink.
‘We need to bring back the training courses that used to be co-ordinated by Cert where students got to work for a few days, while also attending college,’ said Sinéad.
Over in Dunmanway, Paul Di Rollo of Glentree Furniture said the issue of rates was one thing he would like to see addressed.
‘I would like to see a more fair distribution of rates by the Council as rates are crippling for businesses,’ said Paul.