In a brief interview with Tipperary Times, Cllr John Hogan of Fianna Fáil stated that “Poor political leadership and a lack of representation at cabinet level over the past 20 years has crippled the Town of Thurles”. We spoke to Cllr Hogan regarding the dereliction of Friar Street in Thurles and if this is a trend which has been replicated throughout Tipperary. The following are Cllr Hogan’s responses.
Question: Cllr Hogan, we see 19 derelict properties on Friar Street in Thurles. A once buzzing economic center resembles a ghost town. Why is this happening to Friar Street and so many other streets around Tipperary?
Hogan: Streets such as Friar Street have been in decline for over forty years but are becoming more noticeable as the number of vacant buildings increases and the condition of them deteriorates.
There are various reasons why smaller retail units in small towns and villages have closed. Firstly, the development of supermarkets such as Dunnes and Tesco attract large volumes of customers. Obviously people don’t eat more food or wear more clothes when a supermarket arrives so other shops lose business and eventually close down.
Road infrastructure and methods of transport have improved dramatically over the past 40 years. As a result people travel to other larger centers and cities to do their shopping, this has another negative on streets like Friar Street.
The financial crisis also added to the dereliction of Friar St with the repossession of properties by the bank’s and the slow process of reselling of those troubled properties. Thankfully some of those buildings were sold at auction in 2016.
Online shopping has had a huge negative affect on retailers in small towns like Thurles and this area in largely unregulated therefore small business paying rates, vat, taxes etc are at a competitive disadvantage and struggle to survive as a result.
An example of the profound changes on retailing over 40 years is my own village of Moyne. In the 1970s Moyne had four shops, a post office, a hair dresser, butcher, Garda station, dispensary health center and two pubs. Today it has a hair dresser and one pub everything else has closed.
Question: Cllr, considering Friar Street is the first street that many visitors see when leaving Thurles train station, what do you feel would be a tourists first impression of our town?
Hogan: I agree that first impressions for rail visitors coming to Thurles is not good. As a municipal district we are very conscious of this and we prioritised the approach road from the Horse and Jockey side last year and cleaned up that area as most tourist traffic enters Thurles from that side.
I will ask the Council to consider a paint scheme for Friar Street in order to improve the appearance in the short term.
Question: Cllr, you have touched on larger shops attracting people and business away from Thurles town center towards districts at the edge of towns, would you consider the demise of streets like Friar Street to be a failure in council and town planning?
Hogan: I do think that the town plan adopted by Thurles Town Council is weak and I raised this at planning workshops. The head planner, Brian Beck, agreed with me and says he will review it.
The Council have to comply with the Government’s national retail strategy when it comes to decisions on retail development, so we have little room for manoeuvre and therefore I wouldn’t apportion full blame to local town planning or the former town Council.
I do however question the reason why Thurles Town is the only major town in Tipperary that doesn’t have a bypass. The lack of this critical infrastructure has prevented the development of Thurles and contributed to the retail decline in my view. Poor political leadership and a lack of representation at cabinet level over the past 20 years has crippled the Town of Thurles.
Following this interview, we hope to to talk to other councillors regarding there position on town planning and economic regeneration of our towns. For clarity and transparency, we shall ask all councillors the same questions.