A MAJOR split among Cork city traders has been confirmed, with the first meeting of a newly-formed business association calling for the Patrick Street car ban to be scrapped.
The Cork City Traders — a breakaway group from the long-established Cork Business Association (CBA) — has held its first official meeting and boasts around 40 individual traders as members.
The group is headed up by Susan Ryan, the owner of a beauty salon on South Main Street, who has been scathing of traffic changes on Patrick Street and city centre dereliction.
Ms Ryan was among a number of traders in court last November for rates arrears, where she blamed the car ban on the city’s main street as “the last straw”.
The new Cork City Traders group consists of around 40 businesses based on Patrick Street, Winthrop Arcade, Oliver Plunkett Street, North Main St, South Main St, Cooke Street, Daunt Square and Paul Street.
The group intend to canvas the city council in the hopes of getting the controversial Patrick Street ban reversed.
The ban, which sees private cars banned from the street between 3pm and 6.30pm, was reintroduced in August last year after being shelved in April, following an outcry from traders. The CBA has been broadly supportive of the ban since its reintroduction last year, praising the Park & Ride initiative and others put in place by City Hall.
On the ground, however, Ms Ryan said businesses are concerned and have been discussing taking action since before Christmas.
“The lack of footfall in the city is a major concern to all city traders, due in no small part to the inability of cars to circumnavigate the city when Patrick Street is closed to traffic in the afternoon,” she said.
“We might as well close our doors at around 2.30pm or 3pm in the afternoon.
“The council are not listening and the CBA have been as useless as a candle in a gale,” she added. “So we decided to do our own thing and go around the CBA.”
Ms Ryan said the ban needs to be shelved until other measures can be introduced.
“We’re not against a car-free zone at all, but we are against the implementation of it in its present format,” she explained.
“The rest of the plan is not in place yet, particularly the development around the quays and that’s going to take a number of years.
“But in the meantime, small businesses are suffering due to a lack of footfall.
“They’re pedestrianising the streets but where are the pedestrians?” she asked.
“We’ve seen no reduction in rates as a result. We’ve the same bills to pay. There’s nobody in town in the afternoon, our tills don’t lie.”
The CBA declined to comment.