The sites for the proposed developments are the former Youghal Carpets building along with the crumbling Seafield Technical textiles premises on 3.7 acres in the town’s Strand area.
In their 1970s heydays, the sites once employed over 700 and 190 respectively. Youghal has shed over 2,000 jobs in the intervening years, mostly industrial and technology related.
The application from Seafield Partnership also includes a fast-food outlet and six single-storey retail units. It follows on from a previously successful application that was subsequently overturned by An Bord Pleanála in 2012.
The board ruled it would detract from the town centre development as defined in the 2009-2015 Town Development Plan.
Youghal Town Council subsequently varied the development plan to facilitate a “medium-sized convenience store” at the site. “It is zoned for neighbourhood centre retail and as such will serve a growing catchment area,” says a spokesman for applicants, Seafield Partnership.
The public consultation process for the Seafield proposal attracted objections from Tesco and from a Galway individual acting through a Limerick-based consultancy, but understood to be representing another retail group. Both submissions claim the development would impact negatively on town centre development.
A third objector, meanwhile, claimed the area’s waste water and flood treatment mechanisms would be adversely affected.
While it had long been touted that Aldi would form anchor tenants for the Seafield project, a separate application has now been launched on behalf of the German food giant for construction of a single-storey 1,567 sq ft gross area discount food-store with 81 car parking spaces. The Seafield spokesman says its application “is not specific to any particular organisation”.
Youghal already has three major supermarkets serving a population of almost 7,000, with Lidl and Tesco on town’s eastern periphery and SuperValu near the town centre.
Yet a 2013 survey conducted by Pro2Call on behalf of Seafield Partnership found one-in-four respondents travelled 30km to Dungarvan or Midleton for convenience (food) shopping, while three-in-four shopped elsewhere for comparison (non-food) goods.
The report concluded: “This flags the importance of siting comparison retail at the town’s core area, with convenience activity located towards the periphery.”
The survey also found 65% of respondents would “very likely” visit Youghal more regularly if a wider variety of shops were available while a further 30% were ‘fairly likely’ to do so. Free parking also emerged as a crucial consideration.
Historical landmarks such as the Clock Gate, Tynte’s Castle and St Mary’s Collegiate Church have been extensively renovated as Youghal turns to its history to create a self-sustainable economy.
All nestle within easy walking distance of a town centre where traffic flow and expansion is compromised by hills on one side and quayside on the other. Many locals feel that peripheral shopping centres have drained the town centre’s economic buzz. Others insist the centre is best suited to comparison retail, including craft, leisure and restaurant outlets.