County Development Plan under microscope at Boyle meeting

Aspects of the Roscommon County Council Draft Development Plan and how it impinged on Boyle were reviewed at a joint meeting called by Boyle Chamber of Commerce and Boyle Business Association in The Royal Hotel last week.    The Chamber President, Paul Wynne, was at pains to point out the concerns highlighted in a survey included in the plan urging people to also acquaint themselves with the document. The survey’s most stark assessment suggested that: ‘Boyle was in decline and the retail role and function [of Boyle] is being eroded’.    While a number of people questioned perceived inaccuracies in the report Mr. Wynne tried to focus the meeting in addressing the issues and urged a meaningful course of action to rectify the situation. He commended many of the suggestions in the report and reiterated the concept of ‘self-help’ (recently enunciated by the County Manager in Boyle) necessary for towns, like Boyle, who were neither ‘hub’ nor ‘gateway’ centres.    Mr. Wynne urged that a Town Centre Management Committee be established to reinvigorate the retail sector in which Boyle has had such a strong tradition. Interestingly a few fault-line issues emerged, one being the composition of the membership of The Chamber, but Mr. Wynne emphasised the importance of co-dependence of the professional and retail sectors.    Mr. Wynne touched on ‘commonsense things’ such as parking, tidy towns and the need to ‘take a more considered look at the town centre itself and if necessary get professional advice from experts on how towns of Boyle’s size can respond to the pressures of multi-nationals and larger centres’. He added: ‘We need to change the perception of Boyle to a more positive one.’    The positive experience of Kiltimagh in Mayo, which turned the graph of decline dramatically around, was highlighted. Mr. Wynne also talked on the integration of the various sectors such as retail, professional services, tourism, and leisure areas and emphasised that the initiative ‘must come from ouselves’.    Sean O’Dowd rejected the notion of Boyle being in decline and mentioned the positive number of emerging businesses in the town while Laura Egan said ‘the errors in the report should be corrected’. Mary Cooney emphasised the importance of tourism and referred to the fact that there was no Tourism Committee. Cecil Draper was critical of aspects of County Council infrastructure provision while Caroline Draper suggested that the Business Association should be a sub-committee of the Chamber.    The success of a small committee with arrangements for the upcoming Rally Festival was put forward as a template for what could be achieved. Mr. Wynne brought the meeting back to his core idea, that of forming a Town Centre Management Committee, with a degree of success.    In an overview, this was a significant meeting where the central issues relevant to Boyle were aired. Whether the formation of ‘another’ separate committee is appropriate rather than as a sub-committee of The Chamber of Commerce is an issue, as is the existence of the Business Association as a stand-alone committee. The lack of a group focussing on tourism also needs attention as does the lack of support for Jackie Valentine with the Tidy Towns Committee. Other important groups such as the Vintners also seem to on the fringes.    There are of course positives with the Task Force, the appointment of development officer Alan Shanley, the Visitor brochure and the spirited intervention of  Zara  of ‘Individual Hair Design’ who has given Boyle a vote of confidence with her opening of a new business. The President of the Chamber of Commerce along with Jackie Kelly of the Business Association are to be commended for affording the forum for such a broad and yet focussed exchange of ideas.