A potential social food enterprise development in Newmarket-on-Fergus “will give a life back to the main street which is now dead”.
Such was the view of former Shannon Development Regional Manager for Co Clare, John Quinlivan when speaking with The Clare Echo on Tuesday. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native was worried by the current state of affairs in the village following the loss of 13 jobs with the recent closure of Spar, prior to that Commanes Drapery and Footwear along with Clare Tech both shut their doors, all businesses were located on the same side of the main street.
“When I was growing up in the village there were at least 16 shops, some of them were very small, sweetshops selling newspapers and bread, now there is one shop and two if you count the petrol station’s convenience store, that’s a huge change. The village was always the centre of commerce within the parish”, Quinlivan said.
“I think it’s terrible that the village is quickly becoming a settlement rather than a community, we still have our GAA and our soccer club which are excellent providing a huge community service in the area but they are all in danger of not surviving if we lose the commercial centre. There’s more houses starting up in Gleann Cora, they’re all going to have to travel to get a pint of milk, even if you take the older people up the Ballycar Rd they have to travel the full length of the village and it’s not easy if you don’t have transport or if you don’t have mobility problems to go that sort of distance, I think that we have to be very conscious of what’s needed to create business that will make a demand for the kind of services that we need”.
Locally it is believed that a proposed Tradaree Social Food Enterprise will bring the buzz back to the main street which is currently comprised of restaurants, pubs, fast food eateries, a pharmacy, a bookmaker, a credit union plus a physiotherapy and sports injury clinic. “The Tradaree Development will create the activity in the area which will in turn lead to the commercial development,” John flagged.
Thus far €700,000 has been raised for the project with a further €1.1 million required. Obair who operate the Meals on Wheels service in Newmarket have purchased what was the Tradaree Arms in the heart of the village for the social food enterprise and are relying on the second round of financial support from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund to bring this to fruition.
Plans on establishing the Tradaree Social Food Enterprise started in 2013 when Obair were informed their current Meals on Wheels kitchen which operates out of Café Fergus was too small. The 7,500 sqft building would house a state of the art culinary training facility, a holistic space to include counselling offices, four micro food development hubs for start-ups, a youth drop-in centre and a modern production kitchen to facilitate the Meals on Wheels service.
LIT, GMIT and the LCETB have all expressed an interest in taking over the 16 kitchen training units, other locations in Ireland could typically hold 12 students at once. If successful with their application, Obair will expand their Meals on Wheels service to other areas in Co Clare. Three years ago the service expanded to deliver to Clarecastle, Quin, Doora, Kilkishen, Sixmilebridge, Kilmurry, Bunratty and Cratloe. They envisage that by 2022 they will be delivering 80,000 meals across the county. 13 full-time jobs would also be created if funding was secured to complete the project. A tender process has already been completed by Obair who are in a position to start redeveloping the building immediately if they received funding.
John maintained the Tradaree Social Food Enterprise is key to solving Newmarket’s problems. “It will create the activity and it will give a life back to the main street which is now dead, there is nothing in the main street. What I’m hoping is, this will be the focus for future development and this is why it’s so important to the village to get this kind of activity up and running to create the community”.
A director with Obair since 2014, Quinlivan added, “We’re under pressure with Obair to deliver the Meals on Wheels to other areas of the county, we can’t do it because it’s just not big enough, it doesn’t have the right capacity. The food training kitchen I think is going to bring this area really into its own, we already have a fairly good food reputation with The Weavers Inn, The Hunters Lodge, Dromoland Castle, The Inn at Dromoland, this centre will give them the basic training to get jobs in that business and be capable of getting that kind of work. Upstairs we have the space available for people that want to start businesses, downstairs we have four food hubs so that somebody who wants to do something commercially, it will tick all the boxes for the health board and requirement for hygienic manufacturing which you can’t get any place else”.