Roscommon N5 By-Pass will impact small independent retailers and forecourts
A State of Desolation
What happens to small, independent convenience store businesses when a new by-pass takes trade away from small rural Irish towns?
What’s left for some, is a state of desolation.
There are winners and losers, all in the name of ‘progress’.
IF&CR spoke to one retailer who isn’t happy that the heart and soul is being sucked out of his town when a new by-pass takes trade away from at least three more towns in Roscommon.
The announcement in Dáil Éireann by Minister Eamon Ryan for works to proceed on the N5 national primary route between Ballaghaderreen to Scramogue was welcomed by Roscommon County Council.
But not everyone is pleased about the news.
Pat Towey who owns and operates a SPAR & Top oil Service station on the old Dublin Road in Ballaghaderreen fears the by-passed town face economic desolation.
“While the news of the Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge road project is a welcome development for road safety, and those using this route on a daily basis, it will have very serious economic consequences for businesses directly along the road path” said Pat.
“Ballaghaderreen was bypassed in 2014, and with it went large volumes of vehicle traffic who stopped for fuel, refreshments, dinner. Impulse purchases followed, in other businesses, which caught the eye of the beholder.
“When our business was by-passed in 2014 we lost 4000 customers on average on a weekly basis. We struggled and crawled through weeks and months trying to make sense of at all, and if we would survive or not.
Saved from collapse
“ Reinventing my business model, with a new franchise partner, customer satisfaction, and the success of all the local industries and small businesses saved us from collapse.
“The TII has a case to answer in the planning and promotion of road signage directions.
“When you travel from East to West at Longford town, you are greeted with Green Signs highlighting Westport. These signs catch your attention the whole route down until you get to Westport, or the other direction back to Longford. In your mind these names are the focal points. You zoom in and plan to stop there. Every other town on the route will just become a name on a sign , a white sign like any other. Forgotten are the artifacts, characters, and welcomes that were instrumental in the identity of that town or village.”
Pat has been vocal in his criticism of the rates re-evaluation around the country too – which has benefitted some large fuel companies with favourable rates when taking over sites.
“There have been huge discrepancies – I fought my own case with the valuation office and presented lots of evidence. I found huge discrepancies that rates were favouring the oil companies particularly where they have taken over control of the fuel side of that business.
“Now we have this 450 million euro scheme by-passing four towns. Traffic will move on to the next town for their food. It will impact the small local shops and some filling stations too – those forecourts won’t be able to survive without the throughput of traffic.
“The news of the by-pass can be devastating , there will definitely be some businesses that just won’t survive.
“The first by-pass in 2014-16 had a dramatic impact. You can just image – the huge volume of traffic through the town before that meant I was always busy, busy, busy from 6am. Then Ballaghaderreen was by-passed.
“There was no help or support from any state agency – there is simply no onus on them to help. Their remit is to build the road – but we get no compensation for losing the business on which we rely.
“Politicians are all saying it’s great news but it’s not for some of the business community. Ballaghaderreen took the brunt of the first by-pass – this will have a knock on effect. Traffic will just keep on going to the next town and the next town to avail of the impulse purchaser.
“It’s stealing the soul from these small towns in the interests of influences from big industrial corporations dependent of road infrastructure to carry their goods to ports..
“The county council’s emphasis is to develop the county towns and in fairness to them they are investing large sums in the other town’s within the county with attractive streetscapes. But the real challenge is making up for the lost footfall from a by pass, and how you attract a car or bus off the motorway into any small town or village.
“In Ballaghaderreen there is no shoe shop or clothes shop anymore, no bakery or book shop. There are 3 butcher shops doing their best to be competitive.. There’s no Aldi or Lidl but there is a good SuperValu. Unfortunately the customer wants variety, and in our instance this business is in the surrounding towns. When you go there you tend to use a retail outlet, followed by a social purchase, and then another.
Post Covid caused a new set of challenges for us like any other small enterprise. My deli was the biggest casualty, We struggled with holding on to staff in this area, along with poor footfall, and high food wastage. We took the decision last August to close the deli , and we re located our OFF Licence into this space. This was a great innovation and we have increased our alcohol sales week on week in this space. There is a lot of pressure from Franchise partners to keep up the company standards. This thinking all comes at a price. Nobody knows your business better than you. Don’t be afraid to do what.s best for you regardless of what the national retail trend is.
We followed on with 2 new state of art refrigeration units for our soft drinks and chilled goods. With both units having doors our sales are increasing week on week and a reduction in the utility cost has helped the bottom line. We buy in our Sandwiches and Wraps on a daily basis ensuring freshness and quality. .
“Castlebaldwin In Co Sligo used to have a car dealership and a filling station. The by-pass was the demise of that business – it closed down years ago – the by-pass destroyed it – yet there’s no compensation. Somebody should have a duty of care. Is it Europe, or our government, Why work hard all your life to provide for your family only to have a road project take it all away.
“It’s really sad. Ballaghaderreen used to be such a busy market town. When I was growing up every second building was in use, be it a barber shop, grocery, a bar, or a cloths shop. .
Over the years we lost a Dawn Meats Factory, then AIB closed their bank, Villegar Cigars factory closed, and small local businesses closed up shop due to footfall.
“It’ll be a huge challenge for the filling stations affected by the new by-pass to survive. Its really out of their control . You need customers, its as simple as that.
“You just can’t compensate for what these towns will lose. These places have character, history, heritage – but the by-pass will suck the soul from all of that.”
However the council takes an entirely different perspective and has welcomed the news.
Roscommon County Council’s Chief Executive Shane Tiernan claimed the development which is 34 kilometres in length, will be a major benefit not only to county Roscommon but to the entire region as well as greatly enhancing safety for road users on this national primary route.
“Roscommon County Council has been to the forefront in urging for works to proceed on the N5 route as a matter of urgency. Now that the Government have given the go-ahead to this project, the construction phase can now begin.
“The development of the N5 will be a major driver for local economic development. It will reduce transport journey times as well as carriage costs for business but more importantly, provide a quality and safer route serving the entire western corridor, providing better connectivity.
“Commuting times for businesses, works and visitors to the region will be considerably reduced. The new route will also reduce traffic congestion and improve road safety in our towns and villages such as Frenchpark, Ballinagare, Strokestown and Tulsk which will now be bypassed.
“Because of this, all of these locations will be safer and more attractive for visitors to stop and enjoy the many retail, historical and heritage offerings all of these locations enjoy in abundance. Pedestrians and cyclists will also benefit from the reduction of traffic in these locations whilst benefiting from active travel infrastructure that will form part of the scheme.
“The new road will greatly enhance one of the most important national primary routes in the county, improving traffic connectivity between east and west and serve as one of the main arterial routes to the western region.
News of the development was announced by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday. The estimated total scheme cost of the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramogue Road Project is estimated at €450 million and will take up to four years to complete.
The new estimate for the project has increased due to inflationary pressures alongside rising costs of construction materials and elevated levels of shipping and logistic costs. Provision will also be made for pedestrian and cyclist facilities where the route meets access points to some of the towns along the route, improving road safety for all route users.