IN KANTURK at the moment all politics boils down to whether or not Lidl and Tesco will be allowed to build in the town.
Tonight more than 500 people are expected to attend a meeting organised by the town’s community council to demand the supermarket chains be facilitated in moving to the town.
But for both sides of the debate it is about far more than competition between grocery stores.
The outcome will have ramifications for employment, road access, age profile, planning, income levels and rural infrastructure.
Local cinema-owner Michael O’Riordan strongly believes the town needs the two stores.
“There is no employment available in Kanturk, for years everybody has been trying to get employment here but it hasn’t worked. That is very hard especially for young people. There are young people who need a start in life and don’t have the ability to travel somewhere else to work so they either move away or stay and not have a job,” he said.
If two shops were allowed to be built it would create in the region of 70 jobs and Mr O’Riordan said this would drive the local economy.
“At the moment people are driving all the way to Mallow to do their shopping. That is money being lost to the town. I am very annoyed about it because it is difficult to keep a business going and get people through the door if they don’t have the money, that is why we need jobs here in Kanturk,” he said.
The two shops are offering other sweeteners ahead of their arrival and are agreeing to contribute towards a new road bridge in the town. For local quarries and heavy goods operators this would greatly improve their ability to do business around the town and, in turn, improve the viability of the economy.
The chief objector to the shops is the local chamber of commerce, which is at loggerheads with the community council.
Both sites being looked at by Lidl and Tesco are outside the town boundaries and the council would need to change its development plan before planning permission is granted.
This requires a two-thirds majority backing from county councillors and this is where the community council is trying to put pressure on political parties.
It is argued that moving the boundaries would undermine the existing town core and threaten the other retailers. It may also set a precedent for bad planning in the hinterland of the town.
The alternative is to move one of the shops to the site of the existing mart, within the town boundaries.
However, the mart is not likely to be sold for some time and Aine O’Leary of the community council said the people of the town are not willing to wait.
“People are putting pressure on us to call this meeting and get something done now. We were told first they could not change the zoning until 2009, but that is not the case and we are saying this needs to be done right away,” she said.