Shop vacancies remain ‘stubbornly high’

By Pádraig Hoare

The west of Ireland and Ulster counties have considerably more vacant shops, offices and factories than Dublin and the rest of Leinster, a survey of properties nationwide has shown.

Leinster has half of the overall commercial activity in the Republic, while Connacht and Ulster only have around 14% and 8% respectively. Dublin has a third of all commercial activity, the survey by GeoDirectory found.

The report showed the number of vacant shops and offices dropped more than 1% in the capital compared to a year ago, while 14 counties recorded an increase in vacancies.

The national survey of 212,000 properties comes ahead of the Government confirming spending on the National Development Plan on Friday.

Some 28,000 buildings are vacant. While 14 counties saw an increase in vacancies, just 12 counties saw a decline.

GeoDirectory said that its analysis backed up the assertion that the economic recovery in recent years “has not been as broad-based as it should have been”.

In Dublin, 12.5% of shops, offices and factories are vacant.

In contrast, Sligo had the highest number of vacant shops, offices and factories in the country at almost 19%, while Ballybofey in Donegal was the town with the highest rate at almost 29% vacant.

Vacancy rates “remain stubbornly high outside the capital”, the report said.

Leinster — excluding Dublin — at 12.6%, and Munster at 13%, had a vacancy rate below the national average of 13.3%. Ulster is at 14%, and Connacht is just over 16%.

Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan was the only town in Ulster to register a vacancy rate below the national average.

Over 19,000 buildings across the Republic have been vacant for more than three years. In Cork, vacant numbers increased in all county towns.

Cork City remained the same. However at just under 10%, Carrigaline had the smallest vacancy rate in Munster, the report said.

Chief executive of GeoDirectory, Dara Keogh said: “This report shows that while there are signs that the economic recovery is beginning to spread outside Dublin, there is still a stubbornly high commercial vacancy rate, particularly along the west coast of Ireland.

“Given that there is also a high proportion of long-term vacant commercial buildings, there is significant scope to redevelop and put these properties to better use, particularly as discussion around the National Planning Framework continues.”

Meanwhile, Dublin Chamber has said that the capital deserves more capital spending, not less.

Dublin is “suffering from a massive gap in capital and general government spending”, the body said, according to the new research.

The chamber said its analysis of government spending across 26 counties over the past seven years found that Dublin was the second lowest recipient of capital funding on a per capita basis.

Dublin Chamber economist Mark Canavan, who authored the report, said: “This research demonstrates that Dublin has been suffering from severe under-investment in its infrastructure and capital maintenance over the past seven years, including housing and transport.”

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