THREE laneways in the heart of Portlaoise are to get a shot in the arm for new businesses.
Benefits for newly-opened shops, cafés and other outlets will include a 75% reduction in rates for the first year. It is hoped that financial support will help to reduce the high number of vacant retail units in all three lanes.
Bull Lane, Lyster Lane and Peppers Lane have been selected for inclusion in the Portlaoise Business Incentive Scheme. Established in 2014, the scheme already covers all of Main Street, Market Square and Bridge Street, as well as a number of adjoining streets such as Railway Street and Church Street.
Now the scheme is being extended to take in the three laneways that connect Main Street with Lyster Square in the hope that it will bring more footfall to the town centre and reduce dereliction.
The news was announced at a meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District last week, when it was welcomed by councillors.
The scheme, which is run by Laois County Council’s business support unit, applies only to properties that have been vacant for more than six months. New businesses would be eligible for a grant of 75% of rates in the first year, 50% in year two and 25% in year three. Rates would reach the full amount in the fourth year.
Three years is the maximum allowed for the rates reduction, regardless of how long the shops or business units have been vacant. The property must be owned by the applicant or subject to a minimum 12-month lease and evidence of the rent/lease agreement must be provided. The scheme will not apply to any business or individual that owes money to the county council in another location.
The council says the scheme aims to boost job creation, promote “the development and enhancement” of retail floor space and to enhance the commercial “vitality and viability” of the town centre. It will also provide rates income to the council that otherwise would not be available.
To qualify for the scheme, owners or occupiers will have to supply proof that the building has been vacant continuously for more than six months. A property may be deemed to be vacant if it has not been used for any retail, commercial or other business activity.
Eligible new businesses include shops, offices, medical centres, health clinics, crèches, day nurseries and day centres. The scheme will not be available for outlets such as takeaways, amusement arcades, betting offices, nightclubs, pubs, jewellery swap businesses such as ‘cash for gold’ or particular clothing ventures such as ‘cash for clothes’.
According to the county council, four new businesses in the town centre availed of the scheme last year and it is hoped that the take-up will increase. There are also plans for infrastructural improvements in the town’s laneways, subject to funding being available.
Business relocating to similar-sized premises within the designated areas will not qualify for grant relief under the incentive scheme. People can apply for the scheme by contacting the county council’s business support unit on 057 8664000 or [email protected]