Victory for the traders: city businesses celebrate as car ban parked

Victory for the traders: city businesses celebrate as car ban parked
Patrick St during the restrictions earlier this week. Traders say that the changes caused footfall to decline.

CITY businesses have hailed the suspension of the Patrick Street car ban as a victory for common sense, but calls are growing for better engagement in the coming months.

The controversial restrictions on the street lasted just three weeks amid pressure from city business lobbies, who claimed it was causing footfall to dwindle and sales to collapse.

Patrick St during the restrictions.
Patrick St during the restrictions.

City Hall last night agreed to suspend the restrictions, a key component of the City Centre Movement Strategy, until August 9 with immediate effect.

They also agreed to undertake a comprehensive promotional campaign for the city alongside interaction with businesses, while recently introduced parking initiatives, including the free Black Ash park and ride, will continue.

Philip Gillivan, Cork Business Association president: "Common sense has prevailed." Picture: David Keane.
Philip Gillivan, Cork Business Association president: "Common sense has prevailed." Picture: David Keane.

Philip Gillivan, President of the Cork Business Association, welcomed the moves and said the next month will be vital for traders, who have struggled in the face of poor weather and online competition.

“I’m delighted and relieved that common sense has prevailed,” Mr Gillivan said. “We have a great chance over the next few months to all work together in a positive way because we all know Cork city has to change in how we move around, but not to the detriment of a certain section which is the business community.” He said he would have preferred a six-month suspension of the car ban to cover the holiday period.

Philip Gillivan, Cork Business Association president, left and CEO Lawrence Owens, right, with Cork city traders before their meeting organised by the Cork Business Association (CBA) to discuss the traffic restrictions on St Patrick's Street, at the Imperial Hotel earlier this week.Picture: David Keane.
Philip Gillivan, Cork Business Association president, left and CEO Lawrence Owens, right, with Cork city traders before their meeting organised by the Cork Business Association (CBA) to discuss the traffic restrictions on St Patrick's Street, at the Imperial Hotel earlier this week.Picture: David Keane.

Yesterday’s vote came after mounting pressure from the city’s business community. A special meeting of Cork City Council was called to tackle the issue, with elected members voting unanimously to reverse the changes.

The city’s head of roads and transport, Gerry O Beirne, outlined the impact of the changes on traffic flow at the meeting. He said use at city centre car parks has increased by 9% in the last year and added that forecast population increases will add to the pressure on the city’s road network.

Some 5,000 jobs are expected to be created in city areas in the next 36 months, with population growing in tandem.

Mr O Beirne also noted that travel times from the Sarsfield Road roundabout to Tivoli via the city centre had dropped from an average of 52 minutes last September to just 33 minutes this week during the restrictions.

However, elected members were unwavering in their calls to reverse the moves.

The pause will also allow for a comprehensive promotional campaign in conjunction with the business community, for the city centre, according to Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald.

It will also allow for engagement with all city stakeholders and the general public to increase awareness of the City Centre Movement Strategy and its role in addressing traffic congestion issues.

“As a council, we need to be sensitive to the position of our city traders who operate in a difficult environment with growing competitive pressures,” said the Lord Mayor.

“The City Centre Movement Strategy, of which the Patrick Street measures are a key part, have a critical role to play in preventing traffic congestion getting to unsustainable levels. That’s in everybody’s interest - shoppers, retailers and visitors.”

Around 200 traders met on Wednesday, reporting that trade had dropped by as much as 40% in some cases, and Independent councillor Mick Finn said jobs would be lost if warnings were not heeded.

Cllr Mick Finn: To ignore concerns "would have been negligent."Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cllr Mick Finn: To ignore concerns "would have been negligent."Picture: Denis Minihane.

“The pause of the movement strategy is to allow time to tweak the policy, which remains firmly in place as a core aim: to address current congestion in the city and plan for its expansion,” he said.

“Current employment in the city is as important as the jobs projected, so we need to take a balanced approach. We can’t rob Peter to pay Paul.

“New drop-off zones and other incentives could form part of the re-operation of the scheme in August.

“To ignore concerns that would have resulted in job losses would have been negligent on the part of council, though some social media experts might disagree.”

Cork City Chief Executive, Ann Doherty said the council has to ensure people can get to and through the city and get to their work on time.

“To do that, we need to rebalance the different transport modes and create public transport reliability,” she said. “There isn’t an alternative to that in a city which has and will always have - limited road infrastructure capacity.”

Oliver Moran: Promote city as a retail destination.Pic: Larry Cummins
Oliver Moran: Promote city as a retail destination.Pic: Larry Cummins

Green Party councillor Oliver Moran, meanwhile, said he hoped the temporary shelving of the plan will lead to the development of a city centre retail and living strategy.

“That should focus on promoting the city centre as a retail destination and overcoming the bias towards out-of-town centres, like the cost of parking,” he added.

“But it also has to make the city centre a better place to live, work and enjoy for everybody. The next rollout has to leave a far more positive impression too. It has to invite people in to the city centre and inspire them to live here. Why not next time launch it with a retail festival, celebrating Pana?”

However, Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan defended the car ban on Patrick Street.

“The basic thrust of pedestrianisation is progressive,” she said. “We must take cars off the road, we must prioritise and fund alternative modes of transportation.

“I’m dubious of some of the claims by local businesses relating to the detrimental effects and challenges the ban has created.”

Councillors yesterday also voted to reaffirm their commitment to the traffic management plan as a whole, which contains a number of schemes to reduce traffic congestion and provide for the transport needs of new workers across Cork city, with the Patrick Street ban the third phase among these.

Mr Gillivan said traders are fully behind the steps that remain to be taken within the traffic management plan, including a proposal to make MacCurtain street two-way

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