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Cork city councillors vote unanimously to 'pause' Patrick's Street car ban

Eoin English

The controversial afternoon car ban on Cork's main street has been suspended until August 9.

It follows a unanimous vote by city councillors during a special meeting of Cork City Council called this evening to discuss the St Patrick's St afternoon car ban which has been at the centre of controversy for the last three weeks.

The restrictions are lifted with immediate effect. It means cars and trucks will be allowed drive through the street right through the day as they did prior to March 27, when the restrictions were introduced.

Patrick's Street, Cork City.

A package of parking incentives introduced last week will also remain in place for the time being.

Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald said the creation of priority bus corridors on the street last month had created difficulties, and the council wanted to respond proactively.

He proposed a resolution that would see councillors reaffirm their support for the Cork City Centre Movement Strategy (CCMS) which the council adopted in 2013.

He said members have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by city centre traders on the impacts of the introduction of the priority bus corridors.

Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald.

The resolution, seconded by FF Cllr Sean Martin, proposed a, 'pause in the programme' until August 9 to allow for a comprehensive promotional campaign for the city centre, which will be undertaken in conjunction with the business community, and a significant engagement to increase awareness of the CCMS and its role in addressing pressing traffic congestion issues and the viable functioning of the city and its centre into the future.

Introduced on March 27, the 3-6.30pm daily car ban created a time-regulated bus lane on the city's main street.

Designed to improve bus timetable reliability and travel times, there were initial signs that it was working. But traders said it has decimated afternoon trade.

Some 200 city traders united in calls this week for the car ban to be scrapped.

About 40 traders were in the public galleries for tonight's meeting.

Cork Business Association chief executive, Lawrence Owens, welcomed the decision.

He said his members accepted that it was difficult decision for council, but he said it was the right decision.

He said he hoped to convert the energy which was used over the last three weeks to oppose the car ban into something hugely positive for the city.

Cork Chamber President, Bill O'Connell, said he hopes the decision will provide the necessary space for sensible discussion to take place ahead of an agreed recommencement.

Cork Chamber President, Bill O'Connell.

"There is a need for reflection on the lessons learned and for better-quality engagement and communication," he said.

"We see more and more companies putting their trust in the City Centre.

"Offices and hotels are springing up on the back of private investors who have chosen our city on a global map as the right place to invest their money and to create new high value jobs.

[quote]These companies are and will be increasingly a key driver of our City centre economy, of everything from retail and hospitality to professional services.[/quote]

"One thing is clear, as we grow significantly in population and job numbers over the next 20 years we need to substantially improve our public transport offering.

[quote]We will have 5,000 more people working and spending in the city centre over the next couple of years and they cannot all drive to work, highlighting the importance of a successful Movement Strategy.[/quote]

"We are hugely positive about Cork today.

"Our members from every corner of the Cork economy reported 91% business confidence in our Q1 2018 Quarterly Economic Bulletin being published this week. It is essential that we progress a rapid transport corridor in Cork, if is to grow and thrive from now until 2040.”

Foreign Affairs Minister and Cork South Central TD, Simon Coveney, described the decision as a "realistic and sensible" response to traders' concerns.

Simon Coveney.

But he said it doesn't mean that City Hall should give up on trying to reduce the impact of cars in the city centre from an environmental perspective, but also in terms of improving the quality of the civic space in the city centre.

City officials, councillors, and traders all want the same thing - a vibrant city centre, he said.

"Everybody is working towards that. We need to take a step back, accept that there are really serious concerns for traders because of what's happened over the last three weeks and maybe have a rethink in terms of how we can come back again to this issue with perhaps a bit more preparation the next time."