By’ Suzanne Pender
A DEVELOPER admits he has “given up on Carlow” following the crushing decision by An Board Pleanála this week to refuse planning permission to retail giant TK Maxx.
Gwen Thomas of Thompson Holdings Limited told The Nationalist yesterday that the decision by the planning authority not to allow a 4,000 square foot store ‒ TK Maxx and HomeSense ‒ at his site in Carlow Retail Park would ultimately “cost the town a lot of money”.
“My reaction is I’m going to give up on Carlow … it’s been 23 years of struggling to get something on that site and now I’m just going to let it go grow weeds,” he stated.
“People don’t want anything outside of Tullow Street, so that ends that; the contract with TK Maxx is finished, it’s gone now,” Mr Thomas lamented.
“National policy is to protect town centres and I’m all for that, but no modern bricks and mortar major retailer can operate at up to 2,000 sq feet and that’s all that’s available in town centres,” he added.
A contract between Mr Thomas’s company Thompson Holdings Limited and TK Maxx had been signed in March 2018, with TK Maxx proposing to anchor a 4,000 sq ft store employing up to 100 people, subject to planning permission. The intention was that the store would open in 2020, making it only the third HomeSense outlet in Ireland, with footfall expected from Kilkenny, Newbridge and Naas into Carlow. It was also expected to provide employment for up to 60 people during the construction phase.
Carlow County Council granted planning permission for the development in September 2019, however, within weeks, the matter was appealed to An Board Pleanála by rivals Fairgreen Shopping Centre.
The Board Pleanála decision this week cited the proposed development’s location away from the town centre and its lack of connectivity to the town centre as the reasons behind the refusal.
Thompson Holdings Limited had also appealed one of the conditions of Carlow County Council’s decision to An Board Pleanála, which had restricted half of the development to ‘bulky goods’.
Surprisingly, Mr Thomas has not yet received a copy of the An Board Pleanála decision.
“My planner received a letter to say it had been refused, but I have not seen the planner’s report. The councillors have received a copy, but I haven’t, so it’s difficult to comment fully having not seen the report,” he added.
Mr Thomas was critical of the long delays in the planning process, which impact enormously on attracting business.
“There are only two major retailers in Ireland now investing in bricks and mortar, TK Maxx and Penneys; everyone else is going online, so the opportunity for Carlow and TK Maxx is definitely gone now,” he concluded.