3 Economic Development and Employment
a. Economic Strategy
Kilkenny has a strong and diverse economic base which is characterised by high levels of investment in areas such as retail, agriculture, IT, tourism and culinary, arts and craft. Agricultural production in particular has been key to Kilkenny’s continued economic growth. Nationally and internationally, large enterprises in the agricultural sector have shown significant growth in the recent past. IT driven service industries also recorded strong growth and played a significant role in local employment creation, with large benefits to the local economy.
The Economic Strategy for the County is set out in the Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP), with the overarching theme of the economic dimension of the Action Plan being job creation and to Foster a High Employment Economy. The LECP has several high level goals, most of which will directly impact the economy, including goals to support the Enterprise Economy, facilitate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, develop the Rural Economy, protect and Utilise the Natural, Cultural and Built Environment and contribute to Regional Growth and International Potential.
Kilkenny County and City both have excellent enabling infrastructure to assist with achieving these goals. Kilkenny’s accessibility is second to none; on national motorway and rail networks with links to an international seaport, adjacent to two Institutes of Technology and situated in a strategic location at the heart of the South East Planning Area (SEPA), between Carlow, Waterford, Wexford and Clonmel. The strategic location of Kilkenny within the South Eastern Planning Region enables both the County and City to grow whilst strategically contributing towards the growth of the entire sub region.
Kilkenny is well positioned to support sustainable economic growth through the following key opportunities:
- Abbey Quarter (city centre) has the potential to deliver 60,000sqm of mixed residential and employment use. Refurbishment of the existing Brewhouse building will commence later this year.
- Kilkenny’s tourism attractions continue to evolve (e.g. Medieval Mile Museum), as a “Hero” site within Ireland’s Ancient East, this can be a potential game changer for Kilkenny and the South East Waterford City Region, attracting further tourist revenue and boosting job creation.
- The City’s future expansion areas of Loughmacask and the Western Environs have capacity for circa 4,800 homes, 12,500 people, within the overall concept of the compact 10 minute city.
- Infrastructure (road, water services and public park) is being provided in the Western Environs of Kilkenny city to enable delivery of 800 houses and two post primary schools
- The Ferrybank area has the potential to deliver significant sustainable growth in the context of the targets set for Waterford City in the National Planning Framework.
- The Belview Port area, in close proximity to Waterford, with its strong industry and employment base, has significant existing capacity for expansion; 190 hectares are zoned for development as a strategic employment location.
- Kilkenny’s District Towns of Callan, Castlecomer, Graiguenamanagh and Thomastown, along with the smaller towns and villages, have significant growth potential in areas such as agriculture, food, energy and tourism. Well established and serviced communities in these rural towns have the capacity for significant population growth utilising planned land use and place making principles.
- City Business parks also have capacity for sustainable employment growth, within a short distance of new homes.
However, challenges remain, including the unemployment rate of 8% in the South East region. There is still a significant proportion of commuters travelling from Kilkenny’s city, towns and villages to work as far afield as Dublin and hence it is imperative to create local jobs by growing the existing sectors and establishing new sectors, thereby ensuring a diverse and resilient local economy. Kilkenny contains the critical mass and has the distance from Dublin to be capable of being successful in sustaining itself in employment terms, whilst being careful not to repeat mistakes of commuter-driven development.
The retail environment is changing and significant migration to online sales rather than through traditional on street outlets is posing significant challenges to all town and city centres. This change in the retail environment, in combination with the limited opportunities for modern “living over the shop” type housing in town centres may be at the heart of increases in dereliction and reductions in footfall in many towns throughout Ireland, which should also be acknowledged and planned for in the Kilkenny Development Plan. As such it is important to develop quality retail and commercial environments that will in turn improve the vibrancy and enhance traditional on street experiences in both the city and smaller towns. The Development Plan should also continue to anticipate retail leakage from the City and County and put in place mechanisms to mitigate and counter such trends at an early stage.