An Athlone councillor is suggesting the introduction of a small grants scheme for the renewal of unoccupied shop fronts in the town centre.
Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne said local people are “very concerned about the decline of Church Street”, and suggested a small grants scheme to contribute to the renewal and tidying of shop fronts along the street.
“I’m suggesting a grant scheme to encourage businesses that are unoccupied to put up a wrap in their window and to paint the outside.We need a short-term plan between now and Christmas to make the town look a bit better. It would be very simple and we are not talking huge money,” said Cllr Buckley Byrne.
“A number of people are very concerned for businesses there and the way it looks. People can’t get over the amount of businesses that are unoccupied.”
While councillors welcomed the spirit of her motion, Cllr Kieran Molloy felt it shouldn’t be up to the council to pay for the improvements.
“I support the idea that when a building is unoccupied a wrap should be put in the window, but we should encourage the owners of the buildings to do it themselves,” he suggested.
Meanwhile Cllr Mark Cooney suggested the council write to shop owners to encourage them to make their shop fronts more attractive.
Other suggestions came from Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran who thought the council should write to paint company Dulux to see if they had a suitable scheme, and Cllr Gabrielle McFadden who said vacant shop windows could be used to showcase a wrap or poster advertising another business.
Director of services Barry Kehoe said that while the council didn’t have a budget for a grant scheme, they would continue to work with Athlone Chamber and would help as much as they could.
“It is an issue and a problem in a number of streets across town. There is more to a small grant scheme than meets the eye; it is not something we could do immediately but we will talk to the chamber again,” he said.