THERE have been calls for a major plan to be put in place to breathe new life back into the centre of Tullamore and to restore the town to a time when it was a ''serious centre of commercial and retail activity.''
Councillor Sean O'Brien has a motion down for this month's meeting of Tullamore Municipal District seeking for a frame-work to be put in place as a ''matter of urgency'' and to be developed in conjunction with all the relevant stakeholders.'
'People feel the town centre is gone completely dead. Everywhere you look there are closed premises there is no heart to the town,'' said Cllr O'Brien.
The Independent councillor wants to engage with council management to look seriously at how they envisage the town looking in the future. ''Do we know where we are going? As the old saying goes, 'if you don't know where you are going any road will take you there.' We are doing the streetscape and the greenway but is it all connected is there a plan? In five years time what do we want Tullamore to look like? How are we going to market the town and get businesses back into it? We have to be proactive. We have the old Texas site, and there are various proposals for it but we need to know. We want a major retail centre in there. Back in the 80s and 90s Tullamore was an extremely busy town, the shops were doing great business and there was all sorts of activity,'' he said.
The Tullamore based councillor believes there have to be incentives to attract businesses into the town. He gives examples like town renewal grants and enticements regarding rates adding that the council should be taking the lead in this regard.
According to the Tullamore Town Development Plan 2010-2016 extended to 2020. ''Retail development will be encouraged in Tullamore'' It states: ''The preferred location for retail development is within the existing town centre of Tullamore. In those instances where development cannot be accommodated in the defined town centre, edge-of-centre locations may require to be identified. Only when these options are exhausted should out-of centre locations be considered, providing there is no significant adverse impact on the existing centre.''
The plan identifies 9 potential re-development sites, within the defined boundaries of the town centre which it states ''would contribute greatly to the renewal, enhancement and regeneration of the town centre. These sites also provide the greatest potential for development and consolidation on a sequential basis within the town centre without unnecessary expansion into outlying areas. ...The key characteristic with each of these sites is their location within the centre of Tullamore.''
The plan says that a ''detailed masterplan shall be prepared for each individual area.''
Meanwhile, a shopping complex for the former Coen's site on Church Road is currently on hold as the council has sought further information from the developer Grapemont Ltd.
If the plan gets permission it will include a retail-led mixed use development with a variety of shops, cafe/restaurant, cinema, garden centre and 8 residential apartments. There will be a road linking Riverside with the complex which will be opposite the new Lidl store on Church Road.