The Cork Business Association have expressed their delight at the decision to pause the Patrick Street private car ban but said they would have liked the consultation period to be longer.
Following three weeks of controversy, the council unanimously voted to pause the introduction of a new priority bus corridor on St. Patrick Street and lift the exclusion of vehicles other than buses and taxis, from the street, with immediate effect.
The ban, which prevented private cars using the street between 3.30pm and 6pm, will be “paused” to allow for city council consultations with stakeholders, business owners and residents.
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 St 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.” The City Council also agreed that the parking incentives, introduced on 13th April, will also remain in place.
The next month will be critical, according to CBA president Philip Gillivan.
“I’m delighted and relieved that common sense has prevailed,” he said.
“We’ve 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.
“Personally, I would’ve preferred six months because we’re heading into summer, people will be on holidays so we’ll lose momentum but I think the next month is critical and will tell a lot,” he added.
Yesterday’s special sitting of the council was called after council party leaders and whips met members of the executive on Thursday afternoon, in a meeting that was chaired by the Lord Mayor, and lasted more than two hours.
The ban caused widespread controversy when introduced three weeks ago and the Lord Mayor said traders concerns have continued which led to last night’s proposal.
Close to 200 city centre traders gathered on Wednesday night to express their frustration with the ban.
Meanwhile, businesses reported significant drops in turnover since the initiative began three weeks ago, leading to calls by traders for its immediate reversal.
Councillor Mick Finn said that jobs would be lost if warnings were not heeded.
“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.
“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,” he added.
“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 that people can get to and through the city and can get to their work on time.
“To do that, we need to rebalance the different transport modes and create public transport reliability,” she added.
“There isn’t an alternative to that in a city which has and will always have - limited road infrastructure capacity.” Green Party representative Oliver Moran, meanwhile, said he hopes 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” said Mr Moran.
“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?” Meanwhile, Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said she is dubious of some of the traders claims with regards to lost business.
“The basic thrust of Pedestrianisation is progressive,” she added.
“We must take cars off the road, we must prioritise and fund alternative modes of transportation.
“However, I’m dubious of some of the claims by local businesses relating to the detrimental effects and challenges the ban has created,” she added.
“There is no parking in Patrick Street.
“Congestion was as much of a deterrent for the public to use city services before the ban as it is now.
“I think the challenges of business is much more to do with increasingly erratic climate and weather, and I don’t believe three weeks is sufficient to gather proper data to make a decision on pedestrianisation.” Councillors yesterday also voted to reaffirm their commitment to the traffic management plan as a whole last night.
The plan contains a number of schemes to reduce traffic congestion and provide for the transport needs of new workers across Cork city, with the Patrick’s 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 a two way system “I’m very close to the Victorian Quarter on MacCurtain Street and there is 100% support at the moment for a two way system on MacCurtain Street, based on the fact that they do the public realm correctly and that they put in what we the traders know is needed,” he said.
“This is a great learning curve here, consultation in advance and I think it’ll be good.”