The mart in Rathkeale, which closed its gates four years ago, could be successfully revived, Fianna Fail’s Cllr Kevin Sheahan declared this week. “If Sixmilebridge could do it, Rathkeale could do it,” he said.
But he added that the support of Limerick County Council would be crucial to any attempt to get a mart operating again in the town. And he came down in favour of a land-swap which would see part of the former mart site pass into the hands of the council in return for residential land elsewhere in Rathkeale.
If this were to happen, the Askeaton councillor said, the council could then act as landlord for a limited period which would give local business people and farmers the chance to try and get the mart operating as a viable proposition again.
Cllr Sheahan’s comments come just days after the monthly meeting of Rathkeale area councillors where he was told that negotiations on any possible land-swap were very much a stop and start affair as the land-owner was away from Rathkeale a lot and there had been a change in legal representation.
“The mart would be a strategic site,” senior area engineer, Barry Martin said. “Discuccsions have been ongoing regarding a possible land swap. If there are any developments, we will come back in here.”
“Other people have talked to me about a land-swap,” Cllr Sheahan said. “If we were to do that, we would have to do it out in the open.”
However, Cllr Sheahan was also told that no planning application for the site had been received by the council since the site passed into private hands in 2010.
The site of the former mart, it is understood, was sold in two separate lots after Golden Vale Marts closed the Rathkeale mart. late in 2009. At the time, a big section of the mart site was bought in trust by a solicitor for an unnamed buyer. The price paid was not disclosed but reports at the time suggested it was less than the 1m being sought and one report suggested a price tage of 650,000.
The site had been earmarked for mixed development in the Rathkeale local area plan. That plan hinged on a supermarket chain as anchor tenant within a complex of smaller shops, apartments and other facilities.
At one stage, the Rathkeale Community Council made a submission to the county council to rezone the site as commercial only because of concerns that it could be developed as a private housing estate. However, this was not agreed by the council.
According to Cllr Sheahan, there are a number of local people who would have a keen interest in trying to revive the mart as a going concern but he declined to name anybody.
The mart at Sixmilebridge was closed at the same time as Rathkeale but a campaign to buy it out in 2011 and run it as a Saturday mart has proved to be a big success, he added.
“That can be replicated in Rathkeale,” Cllr Sheahan said. “There is no reason Rathkeale could not function as an operating mart.”
Padraig Doherty, chairman of Rathkeale Community Council, said they would welcome any move to re-open the mart in the town, where business had been adversely affected by the closure. “We would be in favour of anything, including the land-swap, which might encourage business into the town,” he added.