The ‘biggest mistake’ Castletown has made was to object to Tesco opening an Express store in the town said commissioner Colin Leather.
he store pulled out after failing to secure an alcohol licence for the proposed outlet.
Mr Leather made the comment when the local authority considered the draft of a report on retailing in the town compiled by retail expert Martin Sewell, which was commissioned by the Department of Economic Development.
The DED offered to pay an independent retail expert to advise Callow’s Yard developer Roy Tilleard – and the town in general – following the submission of planning applications to convert Callow’s Yard from retail to residential use. Public concern that the plans, if passed, would fundamentally alter the town led to a series of public meetings.
Mr Sewell consulted 40 members of the public and said the ambition is to make Castletown ‘our preferred choice location to work, shop and visit’.
He wrote: ‘I trust this report will act as a “catalyst for change”, sooner rather than later, as there are a number of years to catch up in terms of direction, determination, action and evidence of results.’
l Using the fire station site on Farrant’s Way (which is to move) as a car park.
l Policing current spaces – often used by business owners and employees – properly.
l Attracting employers to town, bringing 2,000 employees in by April 2015.
l Obtaining ‘sustainable’ tenants for Callow’s Yard and holding events in the development and square.
l Introducing a camp site close to town, which would lead to an influx of visitors.
Commissioner Kevin Weir said: ‘A lot of emphasis comes to us and other people in Castletown.’
Chairman Richard McAleer said: ‘Parking is a major issue, we said it time and time again.’ He said if car parking areas in town currently owned by the Department of Infrastructure were handed to the authority, ‘we may be do something about it’.
‘You have to have a shop with a product people want to buy,’ said Mr Leather. ‘Unless we get this right, I cannot see Castletown having a retail centre at the end of this decade, there is low footfall and it is getting lower all the time. The biggest mistake was not getting Tesco, that would have regenerated the town in my opinion.’
He suggested they discuss the report with new Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly. ‘This is extremely important to get this right, to get Callow’s Yard filled and all the apartments filled.’
The rents in Callow’s Yard are ‘too high’, said Andrew Thomas.
They are throughout the town, said Mr Leather.
Mr Thomas added: ‘There have got to be lessons for avaricious landlords’ who need to work, ‘for the good of the town.’
Mr McAleer added that the shops cannot compete with the internet.
Mr Thomas asked: ‘What does our government do about it? VAT from all these purchases goes to the UK and postage goes to the UK. All the roads are clogged up by delivery vans.’
Mr Weir said: ‘Callow’s Yard is the elephant in the room ... it’s up to the landlord to sweeten the pot [reduce rents].’
‘We all need to invest in the success of the town,’ said Mr Thomas.
Mr Weir said: ‘This is the start. Now we have got to change attitudes and it starts with the landlords.’