A 30-year planning strategy for towns such as Claremorris, Ballinrobe and Ballyhaunis needs to be drafted sooner rather than later, according to Claremorris Chamber of Commerce President Jimmy Flynn.
Mr Flynn was responding to an announcement from Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy about business owners creating homes in empty units over their shops without needing planning permission.
This idea of creating living spaces above businesses in small towns is one that Flynn has supported and spoke to The Mayo News about in 2015.
He believes however, that along with relaxing planning to allow this, other planning legislation must be relaxed and a plan must be put in place for small towns.
Claremorris Chamber of Commerce has written to various Ministers of Finance over the years requesting an extension of the Urban Renewal Scheme.
“We want it extended to all smaller towns … an architect should be appointed to the municipal district for a 30-year plan,” said Flynn, who runs Flynn’s Pharmacy in Claremorris.
The business owner believes Minister Murphy needs to relax planning that is ‘throttling towns’.
“We don’t want all planning to be relaxed, but in 2011 and 2012 draconian policies were brought in which cannot facilitate rejuvenation.”
Quality family spaces and incentives for rejuvenation are what is needed, according to Flynn, who believes that these family spaces can be created in town centres above businesses if it is done in an imaginitive way.
“I was brought up over a shop and a lot of my friends were,” said Flynn, adding that there was an opportunity for homeowners on the outskirts of town to move into town nearer amenities and services.
In relation to the rejuvenation of Ballinrobe, Emma Gill of Emma Gill Property Partners agrees that more units in Ballinrobe could be turned into living spaces.
“They absolutely could be converted into living spaces, spaces above vacant commercial units have been wasted. Regulations are the issue though, that’s when people find it difficult. I welcome the news that planning for these types of projects will not be needed in the future,” said Ms Gill.
Ms Gill pointed out that in the capital, these spaces have to be utilised. “Why not in the south Mayo town?” she said.
“Dubliners have to go up. There are very few people actually living about units in Ballinrobe.”
Referencing projects from Dublin also, Mr Flynn believes a long-term plan is key.
“Imaginative thinking with vision is what’s needed. Malahide didn’t happen overnight; they came up with a 30 year plan … this can be done. We need to stop granting easy planning outside the town. Relax planning laws and create tax breaks and incentives for town regeneration.”