If ever there was an example that the Public and Private sector operates at different speeds , then surely what has happened recently with regard to the proposed Town centre traffic plan is it!
Lets try to give you an “executive summary” of whats happened
This plan was initialised as far back as 2009
Consultation process took place 4-5 years ago when submissions were invited from interested parties , incl Businesses , Tralee Chamber , Voluntary groups etc
Eventually the funding was .secured (circa 1.38 million which brings the budget to 2.2 million )
But this funding is based on the works done in a particular way and budget used in a particular timeframe .
This “particular way “ involves amongst other things 2 way traffic in Denny St , the loss of 66 parking spaces in the heart of Tralee ,the loss of significant disabled parking , and the relocation of the Taxi Rank to Denny St .
These are the issues that have caused the; Save Tralee ‘ meetings to be so well attended .And I attended a very proactive meeting on Monday last in the Grand Hotel when over 200 people attended including many public representatives . This was followed by another smaller meeting on Wednesday with Save Tralee representatives and Kerry County Council The outcome of these proactive meetings I will cover below ,
But first maybe a few observations on my behalf ….
– As Fergal Quinn said recently on the Late Late show about our Government and Civil Servants “ I am always concerned about working with people who allocate and spend money without having to worry where its going to come from !” And this guy spent 25 years working as a Public Representative ! as well as Superquinn !!
Yes it was a good idea at the time , way back in 2009, 2010 2011 , with our local authorities doing what they do well , securing funding and money for projects . Tralee Inc has always been good at doing that …Think back to the 1990s …. The Aquadome driven by Denis Reen , The Jeanie Johnson driven by John Griffin , Tralee’s CCTV system , the first in provincial Ireland , driven by Denis O Leary and The Ring Road with Dick Spring
BUT the whole country was in the worst recession that we have ever seen around that time and the business community would have been receptive to any project that involved spending money locally and holding onto a few jobs . Anyway , everybody was too concerned about trying to simply keep the doors open and surviving at that time . If Donald Trump had arrived and promised Casinos for all , we would have said yes , !! Any economic activity was better than none !
We are where we are …. But roll on a few more years , and surprise surprise , we are slowly exiting this darn recession , after years of pain , anguish and stress …Yes thats what the self employed and business community go through when times are hard …(.I know …we closed our business after 23 years in 2011.) When times are bad , very bad or even just quiet , very quiet in business terms , we are the last to pay ourselves wages on a Saturday evening , our staff and Suppliers come first as they are what keeps us in business …and after that , just form an orderly queue…and we’ll see whats left !
We have fought off the downturn, seen our youth emigrate, the Mall, our prime shopping area full of empty units only 4 -5 years ago! There was no Quinlans ,no Costa , no Mods n Minis , No Tagney Lacey opticians , No Benners Hotel , No Roasthouse , No Zipyard, No Regatta, No Official , No Paco and all while trying to embrace the most lop-sided development (Nothing personal , Derek ) in the country, A development that was given the go ahead by our local authority and elected officials back in 1999 ,….. Manor West .
A great commercial development , and well run but Manor has FREE PARKING, …Tralee Town Centre doesnt ! So forgive Heather O Sullivan of John Ross and Dick Boyle of the Grand Hotel , Der Sullivan of Ders and Benners Hotel for being a little protective of the 66 parking spaces under threat , that their precious customers have to pay the privilege for shopping in Tralee . When Manor opened all those years ago , it had 1 coffee shop , 1 supermarket , 1 Department store , no pharmacy , and some other shops ….So you wouldnt exactly say that people were going there for retail choice ….Manor West simply took the first rule of business , “Make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you “ and excelled at it ! and people came (but from where ??)….Welcome to Manor , Park where you like , for as long as you like ..and .Tralee Town Centre .. well …quite the opposite !!!
Is it any wonder Heather says we are still very fragile as we exit this recession ….lets see that its here to stay for a while before we start moving the goalposts again !!
You see , business people in this Town know what their customers want …they have to know …thats how they stay in business !!
So when the KCC Engineers say “it could take 12 months ,rather than 8 “ , and “the timing is not ideal “ and it cant afford to turn down the funding …then alarm bells start ringing !! I remember when it was decided to Pedestrianise AbbeyCourt in 2002 AFTER TESCO HAD PULLED OUT OF THE TOWN CENTRE ! THEN THE SQUARE FOLLOWED . So a downturn in business after a major attraction leaves the town followed by construction work and major disturbances ….And we wondered where our customers went!! DOES THIS ALL SOUND A LITTLE DEJA-VU !!
What about this quote from KCC ?……..” we could have difficulty in securing future monies if we turn this down “ WHY SO ? iF I as a business secured funding for the development of my business , then decided the timing wasnt right , for whatever reason , then surely I would have a better chance of securing it again in the future ! Why should I spend it just for the sake of spending it !! REMEMBER A GOOD IDEA , BADLY IMPLEMENTED , IS A BAD IDEA !!
Anyway , whats the current status?
I believe that the development is going ahead following meetings with Council officials and SAVE TRALEE ( business people Hotelier Dick Boyle, Auctioneer Eddie Barrett and Heather O’Sullivan of John Ross Jewellers.were present ) They met CEO of Kerry County Council, Moira Murrell, Senior Engineer Tom Sheehy and Director of Services Michael Scannell. Middle ground was found on a number of important issues such as Parking Spaces , Disabled zones and The Taxi Rank .And I believe further positive suggestions were discussed . Hats off to SAVE TRALEE …and to KCC !!
In the meantime how about
this for a discussion item?
…..While we are waiting for the grand Denny site plan to evolve ….why not …..
-Identify a section of this site that we could offer business people and their staff long term parking away from the town centre at say €50 for 6 months….thats lots of parking freed up -Put up signs on the entrances to Tralee saying “Welcome to Tralee ….Free Parking (1st Hour Free)….look at Newcastlewest!
-Then jointly market with Manor that Tralee is the first FREE PARKING TOWN IN IRELAND (MUNSTER )
– Then begin cross-marketing both centres by establishing a shuttlebus operation from the Town Centre to Manor West every 15 mins @ €1 -And while we’re on a roll , why not do the same between Tralee and Killarney with our totally underutilised railway line with a 2 carriage train bringing people to both centres every hour …now thats serious numbers going in both directions ….its what they do in Europe !!
Any takers anyone?
The Tralee Advertiser
Former Retailer and Former President of Tralee Chamber of Commerce