'The days of the car controlling the city centre are over': Cork traders react to new street plans

'The days of the car controlling the city centre are over': Cork traders react to new street plans
An artist impression of the MacCurtain St Public Transport Improvement Scheme

“The days of the car controlling the city centre are over,” one businessman on MacCurtain Street told The Echo in reaction to the newly unveiled plans for the area.

A newly unveiled vision for MacCurtain Street and surrounding areas will see enhanced access to the city centre through improved walking, cycling and public transport options, and would also support economic activity in the area.

Philip Gillivan, owner of the Shelbourne Bar on MacCurtain Street, told The Echo that he was certain the vast majority of businesses on the street would be very happy with the proposals which have now gone out to public consultation.

“It’s taking 70% of the traffic out of MacCurtain Street. It’s giving the street back to the people of Cork and to the tourists,” he said, adding that when a street is given back to people they use it.

“We’re delighted and we also hope that the consultation process goes well. 

Drawings of the changes planned for MacCurtain Street and the surrounding area, with proposals in place for improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities.
Drawings of the changes planned for MacCurtain Street and the surrounding area, with proposals in place for improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities.

"I’m sure people will have queries and questions. It’s a huge project because it’s not just about MacCurtain Street, it’s colossal for the city centre - Leitrim Street, Coburg Street, Patrick’s Quay, Patrick’s Hill. It’s going to affect a lot of people.

“I think the days of the car controlling the city centre are over. 

"If it’s done properly, with on-time, good quality public transport, people will move to public transport if they’re given an alternative to a car,” Mr Gillivan said.

Noreen Gannon, proprietor of Gallagher’s Pub and chairperson of the traders association, told The Echo that they were consulted and had input into the plans.

“We spoke to the City Council and we put together a wishlist of what people would like outside their premises and what needs they have for loading bays, parking, diabled parking and what was necessary.

“Obviously we couldn’t get everything we wanted but we had the communication to do the best we could for both sides,” she said.

She also believes that rerouting traffic, additional provisions for public transport, and the widening of the streets will all benefit businesses in the area.

“I certainly was apprehensive at the start - I’m fond of my car myself but the world is changing and we’ve got to change with it. 

"I think after Covid people would like to reconnect. 

"The wider footpaths will help us create a European feel up here and with Harley Street and the (Mary Elmes) bridge, it will just be a natural walkway.” 

Town planner Clara O’Neill of Butler O’Neill planning consultancy on MacCurtain St, said the level of engagement and meaningful consultation with Cork City Council was unprecedented. 

"At all stages of this long process since 2015, we have had considerable engagement with senior personnel in the Council, such as Gerry O'Beirne, the Director of Services for Roads, who has been a constant source of contact and information," she said.

"What is clear here is that this is not just an engineering exercise, it is a placemaking and public realm improvement strategy. 

"This scheme constitutes the culmination of years of collaboration between the council and the Victorian Quarter stakeholders and despite some short term disruption during construction, it will be transformative in the long run for the Victorian Quarter," she added.

Andrew MacDonagh, manager of Mother Jones’ Flea Market, told The Echo that from what he has seen of the plans he “absolutely loves it”.

“I’m certainly 100% in favour of anything like that,” he said.

He highlighted the tree planting as a major positive of the plan, and said of the limited plans he has had a chance to view it will “drastically improve” MacCurtain Street and the surrounding areas.

Drawings of the changes planned for MacCurtain Street and the surrounding area, with proposals in place for improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities.
Drawings of the changes planned for MacCurtain Street and the surrounding area, with proposals in place for improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities.

Andy Ferreira from Cask on MacCurtain Street has hailed the plans as mostly positive, and said he’s delighted the street continues to be reinvented, making it a more attractive place to visit.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. The thought of having extra seating and becoming more al fresco in style is brilliant for Cork and Ireland to be moving in a more European direction,” he said.

However, he said he has a few concerns about some of the measures proposed including metal safety barriers on Harley Street that aren’t aesthetically pleasing, especially where a market is proposed, and also questioned where the rerouted traffic from MacCurtain Street would go.

“As much as being a pedestrian, I’m also a driver. Alternative routes need to be worked out. 

"We have huge traffic issues in Cork city centre. It’s great we can reroute but they need to be planned out,” Mr Ferreira said.

Delivery vans also must be accommodated, he added, but have to be set up in such a way that they do not interfere with cycle lanes and “all the other positive aspects” the plan has to offer.

“It’s all about the detail,” he concluded.

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