£55m mixed Newbridge scheme may keep shoppers in Co Kildare


A proposed shopping centre in Newbridge may stem the flow of Kildare shoppers to major Dublin retail complexes, according to a Retail Impact Statement submitted to Kildare County Council by the developers.

The planned centre, on the semi-derelict former Irish Ropes site in Newbridge, could affect the number of Kildare shoppers travelling to centres such as Liffey Valley, The Square and Blanchardstown.

Newbridge Investments Ltd, a division of the high-profile Ballymore Group, plans to build a £55 million, 900,000 sq ft mixed development on the 7.9acre site on Cutlery Road. It will combine a mixed use of retail, residential, commercial and leisure development.

There will be a range of retail floor space, including a supermarket of over 40,000 sq ft and three large department-type stores, which will take up a combined space of over 100,000 sq ft.

It is also proposed that the shopping centre, which will have a main entrance off Edward Street, will have restaurants, travel agents, a hairdresser, optician and financial services. The application also provides for 84 one and two-bed apartments, which will take up over 80,000 sq ft, a multiplex cinema of over 30,000 sq ft and over 15,000 sq ft of office space. There will be a total of 1,701 car-parking spaces at basement level and in a separate multi-storey car-park to the east/north east of the site .

The site has been largely derelict since May 1998, when a building owned by Irish Ropes was destroyed by fire. A material contravention of the Newbridge Town Development Plan will be required to enable the development to go ahead, as the site is zoned for industrial use.

There is currently no shopping centre of this scale in Kildare. If planning permission is granted, the developers estimate a construction time of about two years for the scheme, which will incorporate a new pedestrianised plaza with landscaping. The development would give Newbridge, with a catchment population of over 100,000, a competitive edge over fast-growing towns like Naas.

The Environmental Impact Plan, submitted by Newbridge Investments Ltd and prepared by Frank L Benson and Partners, envisages that the scheme will "enliven street activity and redirect the retail and commercial focus of the town to a site with a use inappropriate to its town centre location."

The development will be four storeys high with a glazed roof atrium. Architects Scott Tallon and Walker went for a more visually appealing multi-use design with a high proportion of glazing rather than the traditional shopping centre box-like structure. The end result, according to a spokesperson from the firm, will be "a varied and animate street facade."

Scott Tallon Walker were responsible for the design of Marks & Spencer's flagship store on Grafton Street and are involved in the design of the Stillorgan shopping centre revamp which has just received planning permission.

Newbridge currently has a population of over 14,000 people, ranking it third under Naas and Leixlip. Since 1996 there has been a 10.7 per cent growth in the population as it has become increasingly attractive to commuters. Kildare County Council's policy is to target a population of 19,500 people in Newbridge by 2006.

Under the strategic planning guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area 1999, Newbridge is identified as one of the five primary development centres. The need for additional retail facilities in the town has resulted in a pull away from the locality by shoppers to nearby towns and to Dublin. Existing supermarkets in Newbridge include Dunnes Stores and Tesco.

As part of their Retail Impact Statement, the developers commissioned consultants Fripp, Sandemann and Partners Ltd to undertake a survey of shoppers in the catchment area. They found that Dublin was the most visited competing centre for comparison shopping, followed by Tallaght, Naas and Blanchardstown. A military barracks once stood on the Irish Ropes factory site until the Second World War. The barracks and its surrounding buildings are now gone but there are plans to photograph the foundations of the barracks, stables and other buildings.

Ballymore is one of Ireland's most dynamic property development companies with a range of substantial office and apartment schemes in London. The company, headed by Sean Mulryan, has also been a big player in the Dublin housing market.