Chapter 4 - Kilmallock’s Economy – enterprise, town centre development, retail and tourism
The planning policy for economic development in Kilmallock is to:
Support future business and entrepreneurial development in Kilmallock to enable Kilmallock to sustain a competitive, innovative, dynamic, and sustainable business /enterpreneurial sector; one that makes a contribution to the economy, and to job creation for the town and its hinterland.
All proposals shall comply with the policies, objectives and development management standards of the Limerick County Development Plan 2010 – 2016 (as extended) in relation to economic and business development.
4.1 The need for a resilient economy
Kilmallock needs a competitive, innovative, dynamic and sustainable business /enterpreneurial sector; one that makes its full and proper contribution to the economy, and to job creation. The socio-economic value of a strong, diverse and competitive enterprise/business base in Kilmallock attracts inward investment, and a mixed skilled labour force, including the higher order skilled cohort with higher disposable incomes. Exchequer returns from businesses contribute to the provision of quality public services such as infrastructure, healthcare, education and enhanced quality of life. A thriving business element in the town centre contributes to the attractiveness of the town for retail, food and beverage business, commercial and personal services, the creative/artisan and craft sector, and for healthy aging as services remain accessible to the older population in a compact town. Such vibrancy contributes to place-making, community pride and ownership of the town.
Unfortunately, the only constant for business is change. National policy such as; Enterprise 2025 Innovation, Agile and Connected; and Future Jobs 2019  places the economy’s resilience to change as central to future employment opportunities. Kilmallock also needs to nurture economic resilience, so that it continues to perform despite the challenges it faces. Kilmallock is well-serviced in terms of professional, personal and business services it offers. However, the town should seek new opportunities and improve its comparative advantage across tourism, retail and new business including artisan/bespoke/creative businesses. The town needs to respond to modern market demands such as e-commerce, agri-tech, or SaaS technology/cloud computing, IoT and other modern digital technologies. Kilmallock should also realise the potential of creative business and industries, green technology/environmental services. However, Kilmallock should also capitalise on its business strengths and traditional business activity, which includes agri-food, logistics, light engineering and tourism. Such diversification supports resilience of Kilmallock’s economy as guided by national policy.  Refer to Figure 4.1 below.
Figure 4.1 Kilmallock – building a resilient economy
The Mid West Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020
The Mid West Regional Enterprise Plan identifies the Council as a significant stakeholder in the plan delivery. The Council will continue to work in partnership with other agencies and the local community to seek opportunities to promote the economic development of Kilmallock and will continue to support the infrastructure within its remit to support companies to locate or expand their business in the town.
This plan is informed by a number of national policy documents including the NPF, Enterprise 2025; at a regional level the Draft RSES, and at a local level the plans published by the Kilmallock Association of Trade and Commerce and Kilmallock Partnership, Limerick Economic and Community Plan 2016 - 2021, and the Kilmallock Community Plan by Kilmallock and District Community Council.
Currently, enterprise activity consists of light engineering, agri-processing of food and animal feed, the Mart and logistics. Thirty five hectares of land has been zoned for the purposes of enterprise and employment in this plan. Kilmallock has a business park to the north and lands to the south designated for enterprise and employment use. It is acknowledged that these lands zoned enterprise and employment are presently are under – utilised, in particular the business park. In line with national policy, the Council would envisage that Kilmallock realises its optimal potential for a number of sectors to deliver job creation.  In doing so Kilmallock will strengthen its resilience having an enterprise mix making a valuable contribution to a diverse economy. Kilmallock should build on its comparative strengths (agri-business, distribution and logistics, and light engineering), and seek to realise the untapped potential of other sectors such as ICT, creative industries and design, digital and data innovation, green technologies, environmental services, logistics/distribution and competitive clusters in key sectors such as light engineering. The Council is guided by the NPF and its National Strategic Outcome 6: A Strong Economy Supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills. 
Social enterprise is a growing sector offering training and employment opportunities, while supporting a circular economy benefitting local employment generation, societal, environmental improvements and community development. Social enterprises differ from commercial enterprises in that they have a social mission and re-invest surpluses back into the organisation. A proportion of their income comes from trading in goods or services. Under the Action Plan for Rural Development, the Government has committed to developing a national policy on Social Enterprise. National employment policy also commits to this small but growing enterprise base in Ireland. 
Business can generate transport in terms of logistical movement of the goods/service, and the commute of employees to the workplace. In 2015,  it was estimated that heavy duty vehicles (HDV) road freight accounted for 16% of Ireland’s carbon dioxide emissions and light duty vehicles accounted for 7.7% of national emissions. Transport is the second largest emitter of non-ETS in Ireland.  Given recent positive economic growth, it is likely that transport demands have increased with consequent increased emission from these sources. The Council will encourage business and enterprise to consider alternative fuel options for its freight fleet and install infrastructure for low emission employee vehicles. This would assist the national ambition of transition towards a low carbon economy, and national policy on clean air and climate action.
Future applicants for enterprise/business developments that require planning permission are advised to seek pre-planning application discussions with the Council prior to making their submission, and should refer to the development management guidelines of the Development Plan.
The objectives for enterprise and employment are as follows:
Obj E1: Enterprise and employment
It is the policy of the Council to:
- Ensure enterprise development is located on appropriately zoned lands.
- Ensure enterprise proposals do not have adverse effects on transport movement, amenity of adjacent lands, natural and built heritage.
- Demonstrate a high standard of design including signage, entrance and boundary treatment, and quality layout with consideration to smarter travel options for employees, and suitable green energy solutions.
- Reserve sufficient lands on site boundaries to accommodate landscaping using native hedgerow and tree species, to reduce visual impact and as a mitigation measure towards biodiversity loss.
- Ensure that proposals for development on land zoned Enterprise and Employment incorporate active and passive recreational opportunities for employees.
- Encourage new enterprise development to provide the necessary infrastructure for alternative fuelled vehicles including on-site electronic vehicle charging infrastructure for employees. Details will be submitted at design stage when seek planning permission from the Planning Authority.
- The Council would envisage that future development of enterprise and employment zoned land particularly on Railway Road would serve as a ‘landmark’, reflecting arrival in the town and would contribute to a ‘sense of place’ and enforcing a positive image of the town.
4.3 Town Centre Retail/Business Development
The town centre has a very important strategic, cultural, economic and societal role in sustainable communities. However, the existing retail services in Kilmallock fall below that envisaged by the County Development Plan designation of Kilmallock as a Tier 2 settlement. Kilmallock is the key settlement for South Limerick, and Newcastle West is the key settlement for West Limerick. In terms of commercial/professional and administrative services the town is performing reasonably well.
Unfortunately, there is an issue of high vacancy of both commercial and residential units in Kilmallock’s town centre. GeoDirectory figures for the last quarter (Q4) in 2018 indicate that of the 59 commercial units in the town centre 18 are vacant, representing a commercial vacancy rate of 30% which is high when compared nationally, provincially across Munster, and locally across County Limerick. Refer to Table 8.1 Comparative analysis of Kilmallock’s vacancy in Section 8.3 Vacancy and dereliction in this plan.
Since 2014, the Council provides grants through the Local Enterprise Office towards the fit-out costs for re-use of vacant properties in town centres through the Business & Retail Incentive Scheme. The intention is to address vacant property rates, improve streetscapes and support the business community.  Uptake in Kilmallock has been low.
Current retail activity has a weak comparison element (car sales and electrical goods only) and has some convenience element (grocery, newsagent and pharmacy), and some hospitality (restaurant, hotel, and take-away). Kilmallock needs a new retail landscape to counteract the challenge of modern retailing including e-commerce. Ideally, some small independent retailer presence would contribute to the vitality and variety to the retail experience of the town (eg. clothing, giftware, furniture, books, boutique/bespoke style business). Creative spaces for artisan/crafts people may also be suitable for the town centre development and reuse of existing vacant units. Local indigenous craftspeople and artisan niche business provide a unique experience in town centres and enhance the resident and visitor experience in the town. While examining the future development potential of the town, one should not lose sight of that the fact that, it is local community that provides the sustainable customer base in the town, which in turn supports a more vibrant town centre.
Given the strong built heritage value of the streetscape, the Council will require proposals to demonstrate adequate consideration is given in the design to conservation, restoration and suitable reconstruction, if required, to units on the unique streetscape, whilst respecting the integrity of traditional plots, street frontage including quality traditional signage.
The Council encourages property owners to consider conversion of the former commercial units to residential subject to compliance with regularity obligations, in the interest of re-use of vacant property in the town centre.
Future applicants for planning permission for business proposals in the town centre are advised to avail of pre-planning application discussions with the Council prior to making their submission.
Objective TCR 1: Infill Development – retail/business
It is an objective of the Council to:
- Emphasise the town centre is the primary retail centre of the town, and ensure retail proposals comply with the Retail Strategy for the Mid West Region, and any subsequent revised document and the Retail Planning Guidelines.
- Encourage new retail development to locate in the town centre by applying a sequential test in the location of such developments.
- Promote sensitive infill developments on sites in the town.
- Ensure that proposals at ground floor level, in the town centre, are restricted to active retail, commercial, service, artisan workspace active use. Storage use is not permitted on ground floor street frontage.
- Ensure that in any proposed alterations to the streetscape of the town centre, adequate consideration is given to conservation, restoration and reconstruction, where it would affect the settings of protected structures, and the Architectural Conservation Area (ACA), or the integrity of the eighteenth and nineteenth century streetscapes. The burgage plots shall be retained.
- Seek high quality shop front design, with emphasis on traditional shop front design, including appropriate material and scale contributing to the built heritage of the streetscape. Internally illuminated signs will not be permitted.
- Encourage the use of upper floors for commercial or residential use.
- Discourage the use of external, illuminated and/or branded signage, and encourage traditional shop front sign styles.
The development of the tourism offer is a magnet to promote and support the future development of Kilmallock. Tourism is an established business sector in Kilmallock, and has more potential, given the presence of a hotel in the town, the rich historical built heritage in the town, including medieval plots and structures, the 18/19th century vernacular streetscape, Kilmallock’s location in the Golden Vale and the River Loobagh, and the town’s proximity to the Ballyhoura Mountains, Lough Gur, Bruff, Bruree and Knockainey. Local walking tours in the town have been successfully developed in recent times, as well as a self-guided app visiting the historic sites in the town.
Nationally tourism is considered vital to both urban and rural regeneration and job creation under the Programme for Government. In terms of branding, Kilmallock is included in the Failte Ireland national marketing initiative – Irelands Wild Atlantic Way. At a regional level, Kilmallock is also marketed as part of the Munster Vales initiative of tourism routes/trails through Limerick, Cork, Tipperary and Waterforld. Kilmallock is a cycling hub located close the Ballyhoura’s and its mountain cycling trails. Kilmallock also takes its place on the Ballyhoura Country marketing platform by Ballyhoura Development Ltd under the LEADER programme. Kilmallock Tourism Development Ltd. – a local community initiative has progressed a number of tourism projects in Kilmallock over the years.
The Council is guided by the national tourism policy outlined in the Tourism Action Plan 2019 – 2021 by DTTS, and at a local level by the Kilmallock Walled Town Public Realm Plan, 2009, and the Limerick Tourism Strategy 2017 – 2023. The tourism strategy seeks to capture opportunities for tourism development in Limerick City and County. Kilmallock has been identified as a part of the medieval stronghold theme of the Strategy and is part of the cluster titled ‘ Foundation and Frontier’ which includes Lough Gur, Bruff, Bruree and Kilmallock. The importance of tourism to the town is recognised as crucial by the local community in their recent Kilmallock Socio Economic Plan and the Kilmallock Sustainable Development Report 2018. Many cross-sectoral themes of this Plan impact on tourism development: for example, streetscape and shopfront quality, vacancy, public realm, traffic, enterprise development, compact urban form, green infrastructure and walkways, and environmental quality.
Of crucial importance to the development and sustainability of tourism in Kilmallock is safeguarding the natural, archaeological and built environment through; encouraging the re-use of vacant or under used buildings and sites in the town centre; the protection of the integrity and views of many of the historical structures and buildings in the town centre including the town walls and the Dominican Priory. Development management tools including the listing of Protected Structures, the Architectural Conservation Area, Special Areas of Development Control and buffer zones, and the objectives regarding public realm, and shopfront design are mechanisms designed for the protection of the integrity of the aspects of the tourism product the town has to offer.
Potential opportunities for diversification of the tourism product in the town should be explored including the creative and artisan sector establishing a hub in the town, festival opportunities and the Arts.
Objective T 1: Tourism
It is the objective of the Council to:
- Promote the sustainable development and enhancement of Kilmallock as a tourism centre in County Limerick, and to continue to promote the tourism sector in the town with other agencies and the local community, whilst recognising that there is an interdependency between preserving the character of the natural and historic built heritage and tourism.
- Protect the natural, built and cultural heritage features from unwarranted encroachment of unsuitable development.
- Promote the development of the medieval Merchant House.
4.5 Small-scale businesses in residential areas
The primary location for small-scale business is the town centre as established in Chapter 3. Given changing working trends, there is a demand for small business based at home. Proposals for planning permission for small-scale business from people working in their own homes may be considered on the basis of the scale and nature of the operation. Uses which might negatively impact on residential amenity such as the repair of vehicles will not be permitted in a residential area. The level of customers/callers will also be taken into account. Any proposals for small-scale businesses in residential areas shall comply with Section 10.6.2 of the County Development Plan 2010 – 2016 (as extended).
Objective R5: Small-business in residential areas
It is the objective of the Council to support small-scale self-employed business operating from peoples own home provided that:
- The business activity is subsidiary to the use of the dwelling as the applicant’s principal home.
- Existing residential amenity is not negatively impacted upon in terms of noise, parking and other relevant planning considerations.
Note the conversion of houses for the sole purpose of commercial or retail use shall not be permitted, or the ‘retention’ of same due to the negative impact on existing residential amenity.
-  - Refer to dbei.gov.ie
-  - Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise 2025, refer to dbei.gov.ie
-  - ibid
-  - Project Ireland 2040 – National Planning Framework, page 145
-  - Future Jobs Ireland, refer to dbei.gov.ie
-  - National Policy Framework – Alternative Fuel Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 – 2030, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Table 1 Transport CO2 emissions by mode 2015, page 12
-  - EPA 2017, Green House Gas Projection Report , Figure 2, page 4. The non-ETS sectors cover those that are outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and includes the agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, waste and non- energy intensive industry