How to enable Dún Laoghaire Town to deliver to its full business potential
Our PreBudget Submission to DLR County Councillors Nov 2018
To the Elected Representatives of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council,
In light of the unfortunate news in respect of the Ferry Terminal Building (and the potential loss of 1,000 new jobs it promised for the town) it is more important than ever that the business community of Dún Laoghaire Town is supported in maximising the potential of the town in every sense.
Accordingly we are writing to you in respect of the important Budgets meeting taking place today.
Dún Laoghaire – A Two Tier Town?
All reasonable people accept that they have to pay their fair share of the costs of running the town however many in the town’s business community feel that the seafront and its amenities are now considered as Dún Laoghaire’s main asset and attract most footfall. Substantial public sector investment (the capital cost of works carried out by the Council on projects adjoining Dun Laoghaire town seafront over the past 10 years totals approximately €55m) has helped make this happen.
In light of the fact that the average annual value of commercial rates invoiced by the Council to the DLT BID area is €7.59m many business owners feel that the concentration of capital investment now needs to start reaching the main street. In addition they feel for example that not enough of the money they pay in commercial rates makes its way back to standard services such as road cleaning and maintenance or placemaking initiatives such as street furniture, play areas or murals etc.
Addressing this perception of a two-tier town, a booming seafront and a struggling main street, is especially important now that the Harbour has become the direct responsibility of the County Council.
How to enable the town to deliver to its full business potential
At Dún Laoghaire Town BID our goal is to work for the BID members in helping tackle this perception in a practical, pragmatic way by working to make all parts of Dún Laoghaire Town BID district the best place to work and spend time in Ireland by having –
- A main street offering the best experience.
- Innovative business supports and the best workspace choices.
- Premium events taking place in the town.
- A focus on creativity, digital and technology.
To help advance these goals our focus is on attracting families into the main street (through improvement in physical appearance and branding/storytelling, for example see https://www.dunlaoghaire.ie/historic-dun-laoghaire-walking-tour-map-launched-read ), increasing business for the companies located in the town (through addressing parking issues and digital enablement of their sales channel to drive more customers into their premises) and increasing the profile of the town as a cultural and creative hub for the region (through projecting the existing events calendar and enhancing it through direct provision of flagship events and initiatives by BID DL CLG such as the Christmas Festival in partnership with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council).
Our Recommendations for the Council Budgets
In support of the above on behalf of the business community of Dún Laoghaire Town we would ask you when it comes to the detailed discussion on the Council Budgets today to support the following recommendations –
Recommendation 1 – Vote to provide the funding to progress two key placemaking initiatives in Dún Laoghaire Town Centre with the objective of providing an attractive counter point to the footfall hot spots of the seafront, creating vitality and increased footfall along the town’s main shopping street.
These two initiatives include:
- With the cooperation of St. Michael’s Church and the EBS Building Society, to develop the corner site adjoining St. Michael’s Church/the EBS Building Society as a family friendly space potentially including a mural, play area, removal of the frontage wall to be replaced by bicycle racks and the delineation of Church parking for funerals.
- Carry out a feasibility study in order to progress previous plans for a town centre plaza site between Bloomfields Shopping Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, as detailed in the County Development Plan 2016-2022.
Recommendation 2 – Vote to provide the funding for a significant increase in the promotion and funding available for the the Shop Front Improvement Scheme in order to refurbish and restore the facades of many of our town’s beautiful period business buildings with the objective of helping increase footfall and pride of place.
Recommendation 3 – Vote to create a significant increase in the grant support available for the Vacant Commercial Premises Scheme (and its promotion) – Objective – where appropriate, and subject to planning, this could support not-for-profit initiatives to take on the re-purposing of unused space (particularly above the premises) into coworking space, such as the Bank of Ireland supported DLT BID PierConnect initiative, which can help create jobs and attract professionals to work and spend money in Dún Laoghaire town.
Recommendation 4 – In order to make the appearance of the town as appealing and attractive as possible to visitors, professionals and new businesses vote to create an appropriate increase in the budget allocation for municipal services in the Dun Laoghaire Town BID district, including road maintenance, emptying of litter bins, removal of graffiti and chewing gum, public lighting inspections and repairs, road signage repairs, maintenance of surface water network, water and drainage works, maintenance of public spaces, installation of planting and seating.
Recommendation 5 – Town Centre Management, Improvement & Innovation – Vote to create the budget to employ/support a part time member of staff at Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to implement the key recommendation of the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation’s “Framework for Town Centre Renewal” strategy. In particular commencing the work necessary to compile accurate data to inform effective town centre management, improvement and innovation referred to in the report’s ‘Health Check Indicators’ and the monitoring of the resulting Key Performance Indicators referenced on page 28 of the Department’s strategy.
We have costed the above 5 recommendations to be in the order of approximately €500,000. We have also had preliminary discussions with the key stakeholders referenced throughout the above recommendations, all of whom are broadly supportive in principle.
We believe that this investment represents a relatively small amount in comparison to the approximate €8m paid in commercial rates by the business community of Dún Laoghaire Town.
This modest investment would rapidly become cost neutral as any improvement in the trading environment, that the above recommendations would contribute to, would flow back to the Council in increased ability by existing business to pay their commercial rates and rates from new businesses moving in to the town.
How might these recommendations be funded?
At its heart our town suffers from a number of large, high profile, very large properties that are owned by large investors or national/international corporations. In the view of many BID members the under-utilisation of these key town centre properties forces the other Commercial Rate payers in the town not only take up the slack in their rates bill (as some parts of these large buildings are no longer rateable), but are hindered from the town having a full offering that can compete for shoppers or talent with other regional centres.
While it is entirely a matter for you as Elected Representatives as to how to the Budgets will be allocated, the additional income that would be generated if there was a further reduction in the Vacant Premises Refund rate, in respect of the type of substantial under-utilised town centre properties identified above, would more than cover the costs of the 5 Recommendations above.
Dún Laoghaire Town Business Improvement District