Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy has described NAMA’s refusal to negotiate with Harvey Norman on the rent at its outlet in the Lakepoint retail park in Mullingar as “disgraceful.”
Deputy Troy met Blaine Callard, Chief Executive Officer of Harvey Norman Trading (Ireland) Ltd. at its Mullingar store (Monday, 13 August) following its closure on Sunday with the loss of 22 jobs.
Deputy Troy said: “I was astonished to find out that Harvey Norman had made efforts to put five concrete proposals to renegotiate the rent on its building, initially to the developer and subsequently to NAMA which has the retail park among its portfolio. It is disgraceful that NAMA refused to engage with the company. The rent is almost €200,000 a year. Instead of keeping a major retailer in the property at a lower rent NAMA has now lumbered itself with another vacant property.
“Harvey Norman’s lease on its Mullingar store contains an ‘upward only’ rent clause. Fine Gael committed to banning upward only rent reviews in the election last year, a promise it has since abandoned to the frustration of retailers across the country. While rent is not the only difficulty for the company as there has been a fall-off in sales, it has been made it clear to me that if there had been some relief on its rent it could have reinvested the money saved in marketing and other activities in order to prevent closure.
“Where is NAMA’s long-term vision for the future of the retail park? There are already two vacant premises in the park and now it has lost one of its anchor tenants. These empty units are leading to reduced foot-fall and more pressure on the businesses remaining. The Government is supposedly committed to job creation but at the same time a major agency with enormous power has stood idly by while jobs that could have been retained were lost. I met the staff at the store and they were very loyal and committed to the company. I sought assurances from the chief executive that the staff would be accommodated and received them at the meeting. The company has offered redeployment to its store in Blanchardstown but the commuting costs have put this option beyond the reach of many. The solution was for NAMA to be proactive and engage with the company at an early stage.
“If NAMA is going to continue to act in this way with tenants who are warning of closures and job losses because of unsustainable rents then the Government must intervene to ensure jobs are protected. It is not the remit of NAMA to put people out of work. I cannot see how having another vacant property on its books and no rent coming in is in the best interests of NAMA or the taxpayer.”