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'They've taken the heart and soul out of the town' - Locals worried as business after business closes in Naas

Retail businesses in the town are facing a myriad of problems.

PAUL MCENTAGGART OPENED The Foot Shop on Main Street in Naas in 2012, with high hopes for the future.

Paul felt that the north Kildare town would be a great place to start his business, which aimed to sell footwear for people with specific orthopaedic needs.

However, after four years in Naas Paul says he’s now forced to shut the doors on his business.

“I was abroad for a long time and I came home and wanted to be a success story,” says Paul, who is originally from Clondalkin in Dublin.

“I’m not naive, I’m not stupid but I genuinely thought I had a good product.”

But you’re hit with a brick wall here. People just don’t want to come to Naas.

The Foot Shop in Naas is the latest in a string of retail businesses closing in the town, which has a population of about 20,000 and sits about a 45 minutes drive from Dublin.

Kate Conway, the owner of Top Drawer Boutique – which has been present in Naas in some form for 100 years – announced recently that her shop would also be closing its doors.

Naas Conway's Boutique alongside other shops in Naas. Source: Google Maps

“It has become almost impossible for small traders to survive in the town,” Conway told the Leinster Leader last week.

Mattimoe’s Londis – which was present in the town for over 30 years – also closed its doors for the final time last month.

The closures are compounded by other business ceasing trading in recent years. Estimates are that over 40 businesses have closed in the town in the past decade.

The closures include high-profile chains and franchises like Penneys, Marks and Spencers and Superquinn as well as multpile smaller, independent outlets.

90209761_90209761 Superquinn in Naas which closed in 2011. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

“Its feels like the Naas Main Street has been forgotten,” says Paul. “They’ve taken the heart and soul out of the town.”

If you look at the small towns across the country it’s the same thing.

What’s happening in Naas?

The people closing their businesses in Naas list a number of issues the town has been facing, one of the principle of them being parking.

“There’s no car park spaces for people here,” says Paul.

Business owners state that parking spaces in the town are at a minimum.

With the closure of Superquinn in 2011, shoppers lost the use of the 60-space surface car park there. Superquinn shut its doors as a result of its lease expiring.

The building in which it was situated was located was owned by Penneys (who operated a smaller outlet store nearby).

90209862_90209862 The shopping centre site pictured in 2011 Source: RollingNews.ie

Penneys had plans to redevelop the site into a bigger store in the centre of the town but in 2015 it announced it would be leaving Naas altogether and cancelled the development plans after closing its store there.

Compounding the parking issue is the site of a planned 16,000 square metre shopping centre which been a fixture in the centre of the town for the past seven years

The cranes still hang above the Naas skyline from the project, which was abandoned and the loans on it transferred to Nama. Over 200 car parking spaces were lost when construction began on the site.

If the centre was to be developed it would provide hundreds of car park spaces in the town

On top of the parking situation, retailers point to the opening of the huge Tesco store on the outskirts of the town as drawing business away from the centre.

“I think there’s been a number of things that have happened to Naas in recent years,” Catherine Murphy, Social Democrats TD For Kildare North tells TheJournal.ie.

38  Social Democrats NAMA._90500169 Catherine Murphy said Main Street in Naas has been undermined. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Murphy points to the opening of the Tesco store, the closing of Superquinn on the Main Street and the lack of parking which she says “undermined the Main Street at a critical time”.

It’s lost the vitality that it used to have. There use to be a variety of shops.

Council plans to pedestrianise Poplar Square are also being met with resistance from local retailers, as the plans would further reduce the number of parking spaces in the town.

“It’s going to take more car park spaces,” says Paul McEntaggart.

They’re choking the town of life – they’re suffocating it.

90209866_90209866 The Tesco store on the outskirts of Naas. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Online shopping 

Alan Shine, CEO Kildare North Chamber of Commerce, paints a different picture of businesses in Naas.

“I would say that there has been a lot of openings recently,” he tells TheJournal.ie.

He points towards the recent opening of Meadows & Byrne homeware store in the centre of the town as an example of improved business

Shine says that Naas is “striding forward and going forward” as a town with strong restaurants and higher-end fashion boutiques.

“Naas like any other urban town close to Dublin is competing with the likes of Dundrum, Liffey Valley and Kildare Outlet Village,” says Shine.

He says that problems exist for the retail sector of many towns in Ireland.

“I think the retail sector is continuing to struggle and compete with out of town and online,” he says.

Shine says that hotel and restaurants are doing good business in the town, stating that Osprey’s Hotel and Lawlor’s Hotel are both adding rooms to their dwellings.

He also states that the Punchestown Racing Festival in April should bring 120,000 people through the town.

90339181_90339181 Naas is usually the town of choice to visit for Punchestown revellers. Source: RollingNews.ie

He did state that any further loss of car park would not be acceptable, however.

Hopeful

In a statement to TheJournal.ie Kildare County Council pointed to a number of investment projects and initiatives it was undertaking in Naas.

These include:

  • €4 million on projects for updating roads
  • Undertaking a review of parking by-laws in the town
  • Facilitating the continued development of the Naas shopping centre site
  • A shopfront improvement scheme

In relation to the Naas shopping centre Nama site, the council said that a decision in regards to the sale of the site was “imminent”.

“Kildare County Council officials are working non-stop with a clear focus on facilitating appropriate development on the site in question,” a spokesperson says.

Despite these commitments and plans, retailers in Naas say that the town is suffering.

A new group called Naas Against Authority Sabotage met in the town last Friday to express anger at the business closures and the view that the council wasn’t doing enough for retailers.

Despite planning to shut the doors on his business, however, Paul McEntaggart remains hopeful for the future.

“I remain hopeful that with proper planning we can turn this around,” he says.

Paul says he will continue to run his business online for the time being, but he hopes the issues facing the town can be sorted out.

“I’m a positive guy. I still believe in Naas.

I’m hopeful for the future and I still believe this can get sorted. I still believe in this town.

Read: Is this still the most economically depressed town in Ireland?

Read: Three bombs discovered in vehicle during garda search in Kildare

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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