MAKING the city centre a safe space for people to return to when Covid-19 restrictions ease and businesses reopen their doors is the “most important” part of the wider plan for the city, said Fearghal Reidy, director of strategic and economic development at Cork City Council.
The safety of the public is being considered in plans to make the city attractive for people to visit in what is the new normal of social distancing.
Mr Reidy said that plans being prepared at the moment are considering the needs of everyone using the city centre after restrictions are lifted.
“What’s important is that we consider all users of the streets,” he said. “People coming into the city will want to exercise social distancing. Pedestrians, cyclists, people who need deliveries to and from their businesses so they can operate, people who need to work in the city because they’re providing essential services, and most importantly people with disabilities. Everybody has to be considered as measures are put in place.
“The most important thing is the safety of people and if you think of Cork, we’ve fine streets and some beautiful streets but a lot of narrow streets, so the challenge then is how to manage all of that.”
The city centre is being looked at in its entirety in order to make the city a safer environment for people to move around in. Similar plans for Ballincollig, Douglas, and Glanmire are also being worked on.
Mr Reidy said that capacity is “key” for the city and its businesses and that outdoor seating licencing is part of the response in the plans.
Licencing is in place for businesses to apply for outdoor seating in order to increase space to cater for more customers but Mr Reidy said that it has to be done “as efficiently as possible” with people’s safety in mind.
“It has to be considered in the context of safety,” he said. “Sometimes, street furniture inhibits people’s access. People with a disability, in particular, find street furniture difficult so we just have to be careful with it.”
He said that capacity is an issue on streets where a queue of five people, two metres apart, requires 10 metres of space to queue safely.
“There is a bigger capacity issue for the city in terms of planning and managing everybody’s needs; it’s not straightforward but we’ll do everything we can,” said Mr Reidy.