Kildare Village-style retail centre ‘could attract over two million visitors a year’

Proposals for a 'Kildare Village type' retail village for Kells could be a “game changer” for the town bringing up to two million people there every year, a Meath County Council meeting has been told.

The plan – being suggested for the Backlands area of the historic town – is being put forward by owners of the land and a company involved in developments of retail centres of this sort across Europe. Four local councillors –Sean Drew (Fianna Fail) Paul McCabe (FF), Sarah Reilly (Fine Gael) and Eugene Cassidy (FG) – combined to promote the idea when councillors met by Zoom to discuss the Meath County Development Plan for 2021-2027. They say that the scheme is a viable one and has managed to retain the engagement of the retail centre developer despite the existence of a raging pandemic.

The backlands of Kells covering about 20 hectares runs behind the former HSE building and St Colmcille’s Catholic Church and on to the rear of Farrell Street has been the subject of previous plans which did not come to fruition. However, the four councillors feel that the current proposal is a viable one. They say that the area already has town centre zoning covering residential, retail, community and open space and put forward a motion calling for a master plan for the area to include a “retail outlet centre”. They say that such a centre could be provided on part of the Backlands site subject to the delivery of an area of active public space over 20 per cent of the masterplan area.

It is also claimed that the new centre could link into the established town centre.

Cllr Drew said that the four local councillors named in the motion to the development plan meeting were keen to have the retail village idea copperfastened in the proposed county plan. He said that retail villages of the type in Kildare provided more than shopping but provided people with “a day out”. In Kells, visitors would have a combination of one of the most historic towns in the region along with a modern retail centre.

“We councillors think this plan could be a game changer for the town Kells, revitalising the whole area. Kells is a crossroads town and can easily attract people from Meath, Louth, Cavan and Northern Ireland. You could be looking at a possible two million visitors a year”, he said. The councillors also point to the attraction that there is one single owner of the site and that the local authority would not have to deal with the complications of multi-ownership.

Cllr Drew said that a plan for a retail village would have to be viable and pointed to the fact that the proposed developer of the Backlands had not shied away from the project despite the presence of the pandemic.

A final decision on whether the current ideas for development of the Backlands goes into the proposed new county development for the next six years is expected to be made this Wednesday when further discussions on the development plan are due to resume.

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