Despite planned targets population figures of 105,000 by 2016 for Kilkenny referenced in the South East Regional Planning Guidelines, Kilkenny has fallen short of this figure with just 99,232 persons living in the County in 2016 (Census 2016)
The National Spatial Strategy suggests a vital target City population of 30,000 as required to achieve critical mass as a Hub Town to drive economic success shared more equally at regional level. Kilkenny had 26,512 inhabitants in the 2016 census.
Drafted in July 2010 mid-recession the South East Regional Planning Guidelines states:
“Targeted investment in transport links and other socio-economic infrastructure such as water services, third-level education and serviced business locations will be required to facilitate the achievement of critical mass at the two hubs of Kilkenny and Wexford. Critical mass will only be achieved if populations of 30,000 or more are realised.
Local authorities, government departments and semi-state agencies are encouraged to focus their activities and investment decisions in such a manner as to accomplish these targets.”
Lack of critical population is still one of the biggest issues challenging the economic development of Kilkenny. The Chamber of Commerce welcomes the upcoming development of residential units on Western Environs and at Louchmacask and the supporting infrastructure of schools and transport links in the Western Environs and encourages the local authority to achieve the full target of housing units as quickly as possible, to prevent the rising cost of living due to a shortage in housing supply.
Consideration must also be given to smaller density, well designed housing development in the City Centre and on the outskirts of the retail core to enable smarter travel (walking and cycling) into the City. Sites at St. Canice’s Hospital or within the sites that will become available when schools move out to the Western environs may be suitable for residential uses. Considering our aging demographic and the work already taken place to create an Age Friendly City, age friendly housing complexes should feature in the centre of the community to allow older inhabitants to enjoy the benefits of proximity to the City.
Living City initiatives should be maximised to assist the businesses around the City to thrive and survive. Waiting lists for city housing of all sizes illustrate the attractiveness of living in the City Centre and the construction of units of all sizes and cost categories should form an urgent component of the housing strategy for the new plan. An easement on complexities to bring above shop residential units back into use should be considered with incentives for owners maximised and well communicated.
The Development Plan should also make allowance for the potential capacity requirement to assist development of serviced industrial and light technology campuses around population hubs to attract high quality jobs to the City and County. Additional resources should be placed to appoint the appropriate staff at local level to attract FDI and start up companies to the City and County. In keeping with this the delivery of high quality broadband and smart city measures must be prioritised.