Seven retailers have closed since the start of the year but City Hall says Pana car ban is not to blame 

Seven retailers have closed since the start of the year but City Hall says Pana car ban is not to blame 
Patrick's St, CorkPicture: Denis Minihane.

CITY Hall has defended its retail strategy amid sharp criticism from a new business group that has highlighted shop closures and “empty streets” since the turn of the year.

Up to seven retail businesses in the city centre have closed since the start of 2019 and another is set to cease trading in the coming weeks. 

Some of the businesses that have closed, or announced plans to close, in recent times include well-known brands such as Newbridge Silverware, Fat Face and Athlete’s Foot. 

In a statement posted on social media on Saturday, Fat Face announced that its Princes Street store would close next month.

Against this background, the newly-formed Cork City Traders Association said that the controversial Patrick Street car ban, which prevents private cars from using Cork’s main street from 3pm to 6.30pm, is crippling retail trade.

However, Cork City Council has insisted that shop closures are part of a “global challenge” facing retailers and are not linked to City Hall’s transport strategy.

A spokesperson for City Hall said Cork is undergoing a boom period in terms of investment in the city and vacancy rates remain below the national average. 

The spokesperson added: “Cork city is going through a period of unprecedented investment. Up to 10,000 new jobs are due to come on stream in Cork city centre with multi-million developments underway at Albert Quay, Navigation Square, Horgan’s Quay, Penrose Quay and South Mall.

“Globally, retail is experiencing challenges as customer buying patterns are changing. However, six new businesses opened in Cork city centre in December alone and Cork’s vacancy rates are also below the national average.”

Susan Ryan of the Susan Ryan Beauty Clinic, South Main Street. Ms Ryan is the head of the newly-formed Cork City Traders Association.Picture Denis Minihane.
Susan Ryan of the Susan Ryan Beauty Clinic, South Main Street. Ms Ryan is the head of the newly-formed Cork City Traders Association.Picture Denis Minihane.

Susan Ryan, the head of the newly-formed Cork City Traders Association, has insisted that City Hall is too focused on providing cycling facilities and public transport, which is leading to empty streets. “The council’s plan for the city is not suitable, as it is unbalanced and is being implemented in a bits-and-pieces manner,” she said.

“If the council continue in this way, we will see more empty shops, more building neglect and empty streets during the day. The plan seems to be to create a city for pedestrians and cyclists but where are the pedestrians and how much can a cyclist carry on a bike?” she asked.

Many businesses in the area have shown their resilience and ability to adapt throughout the years, said Ms Ryan. 

“Many of us started up in the midst of one recession or another,” she said. 

“We survived the crash of 2008 and we have shown we can adapt and move with the times and trends.

“We can’t, however, control the bloody-minded obsession with removing traffic from the city centre which I believe is anti-small business, a strategy that is preventing our customers getting access to our various premises,” she added.

Ms Ryan said the measures have had a devastating impact on business in the area. The CCTA will appeal to the city council to shelve the ban until there is an increase in free parking, a shuttle bus to assist elderly along Patrick Street and the redevelopment of the Quays is complete.

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