Carlow town fights the recession but should the town be fighting the Local Authorities too?

A fine picture of Mr Crotty today in the Irish Independent. (30/8/10)
Crotty’s Bakery was and is again a Carlow institution. We’ve lived in Carlow for about 7 years and about a year ago, Crotty’s Bakery reopened in a brand new location on Potato Market. Everyone I had spoken to was nostalgic about it, I was almost excited as I love home baked produce, as you may know from my blog!
To be honest, I have only ever bought something from there once. Cream cakes for my Mum! Crotty’s is an old fashioned bakery, old fashioned in the sense that it produce factory made tasting produce Now, maybe it isn’t factory made but the difference in look and taste between the home baked produce from Hennessey’s of Carlow or the Farmers’ Market is huge. But who am I to judge? They seem to be doing really well and the co-owner Tom Crotty is working really hard on bringing some foot fall into the centre of the town so all praise to him.

Carlow Town could be bigger, could be better, could be more special. I blame whoever makes the decisions for the town, I am presuming this is the Carlow Town Council.
The biggest mistake for the town of Carlow was building the Fairgreen Shopping Centre in the location it is now. The Fairgreen Shopping Centre is a good shopping centre as shopping centres go. The problem is that it is located just off the town centre, the area of Tullow Street. Carlow already had a shopping centre, built in the old Carlow Jail with a bit of character and a great feel to it. There was plenty room to put some good shops in this building or possibly expand. It is also right in the middle of the town centre. Perfect, you’d think. What is happening is that most shoppers or visitors are drawn to the magnet of the Fairgreen and avoid the Town Centre unless they have to. The Fairgreen should have been built way out of the town or placed in the existing Carlow Shopping Centre.
Tullow Street has a Kilkenny City vibe to it. If I had full creative control in the Council, I’d open up Tullow Street and get some really good shops like local bakeries(okay, Crotty’s can come in!), cafes, delis and Irish boutiques. There are some pubs and restaurants on Tullow Street but they are of the student variety. My beautician( the Sanctuary on Tullow Street) tells me that be Town Council charge every business for putting tables and chairs out on the street. Very foolish of the Town Council.
Recently, with the opening of Visual Theatre and Arts Centre a funky little area has started to develop just off Tullow Street. Cathedral bookshop, Mimosa Wine bar, St Patrick’s College and Lennon’s cafe bar are what the Town Council need to encourage and support financially and any other way they can. I know the Council has put huge investment into Visual and it has paid off. It’s pretty amazing.

However, I totally agree with Carlow developer Johnny Harmon(of Harmon’s Pub), he recently had renovated his bar and it is looking rather fab. He blames the council saying that “the local authorities are not listening to businesses and charge very high rates…a building next to my bar(sic)is empty…the council wanted €187,000 to develop it.” Harmon is not just being pie in the sky, he comes up with some nuggets of advice for the Council. “The banks need to back off…abolish the parking fees in Carlow…our politicians should have more business experience.”

Ohhh, parking in Carlow Town, I’m ready to rant! The parking situation in Carlow is just horrific. You can park for free in the Fairgreen(another reason to be drawn to it’s magnet) for 3 hours but you have to pay for parking everywhere else in the town. The main car park in the town is Dinn Ri. Recently, they increased their prices to €1. I refuse to park here on principle as I’ve been clamped here twice. €40 a pop for the fine. On those two occasions, it’s been an innocent forgetfulness-shopping or coffee took over and when I returned to my car, a nice, shiny ticket was hanging in my windscreen. I park in the nearby Superquinn for one reason only. You can pay on exit.
On a recent stop off in Roscommon Town, I searched for a parking meter. There were none to be seen. I’d been caught out before so I asked a passerby. She informed me that parking is free in Roscommon. Brilliant. Every time we travel to Mayo(where I’m originally from), we stop in Roscommon and eat and drink for as long as we like. Well done, Roscommon Town Council. Could you speak to ours, please?
Carlow Town Council need to get real. They really have one aim. To bring business and people who spend money back into the Town. They also need to admit that the Fairgreen with it’s increasing empty units was a mistake for the Town Centre. They need to start listening to people like Tom Crotty and Johnny Harmon.
Of course, they won’t though. They’re too busy building an obsessive amount of pedestrian crossings and flashing lights so McDonalds can stay in business.

Rant over…until tomorrow.

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