The lack of choice for shoppers is a big talking point in Bantry, and even more so since Skibbereen recently welcomed Aldi to a list that already includes SuperValu, Spar and Lidl. But now townspeople are organising to do something about it, they tell Jackie Keogh
PEOPLE for and against the development of a Lidl retail store on the outskirts of Bantry town have been invited to a public meeting at the Boys’ Club at 8pm on Friday, December 9th.
Amy O’Sullivan, who organised on online petition in support of the development of a new Lidl store in Bantry, confirmed that she has written to Aiden McCarthy – the only person who made a submission against Cork County Council’s decision to grant Lidl planning permission – formally inviting him to the meeting, as well as other business people who are opposed to the development.
In addition to creating an online petition – which will be submitted to An Bord Pleanala – Ms O’Sullivan conducted an online shopping survey last weekend. It showed that 78.5% of the 500 people who filled in the online questionnaire are travelling out of town to do their shopping.
‘They are not just doing their weekly shopping,’ she said, ‘they are also supporting other small businesses, like boutiques, restaurants and cafés. And the loss of that business means our shops here in Bantry are not being supported.’
Ms O’Sullivan said those who responded to the questionnaire said ‘parking and price’ were the two main reasons for shopping elsewhere. And she argued that both reasons could be used to support the case being made for the location of a Lidl store at Newtown, which is 1.2km from the town centre.
She said: ‘The purpose of the meeting on Friday night is to give the people of Bantry a voice. We want An Bord Pleanala to listen to the people of Bantry – not just one person.
‘It will,’ she added, ‘be a very well controlled, civil meeting, chaired by Michael Collins (Ind) TD.’
Aiden McCarthy said he believes the location of the store 1.2km from the town centre could be ‘a catalyst’ in driving other large scale convenience stores out of the town, and that would kill the vibrancy of the town centre, as it has done in other locations.
He said: ‘We would welcome a Lidl store in Bantry, but we would prefer to see it located in the town centre.’
Ms O’Sullivan said she was disappointed that Mr McCarthy had declined to come on air – when the subject was featured on a local radio station on Monday morning – preferring instead to put his point of view after the general discussion had finished.
Mr McCarthy told The Southern Star he is clear in his point of view and he confirmed that he would not be attending the meeting on Friday night, but offered to meet Amy O’Sullivan afterwards.
He repeated his assertion that an out-of-town development would harm Bantry’s economic development. He compared Bantry and Skibbereen, saying: ‘All of the stores in Skibbereen are located within the town centre. In the past, Tesco had lodged an application for an out-of-town development at Cork Road in Skibbereen and it ended up with An Bord Pleanala and the board turned it down.
‘It is my belief that it was in Skibbereen’s best interest that all of the shops were kept in the heart of the town. This has helped to create a vibrant centre. And it is my contention that the same criteria should apply to Bantry.’
He said people are complaining that there isn’t enough parking in Bantry, but he suggested that other supermarkets, such as Scally’s in Clonakilty, successfully overcame similar obstacles and created massive parking on small parcels of land.
Mr McCarthy also claimed that Bantry is performing well in terms of retail sales. ‘The Retail Ireland figures are good for Bantry,’ he said, ‘but of course we want to do better. We want to give choice, but we want to bring that choice to the town centre.’