Cork City Council has decided to suspend the controversial afternoon car ban on the city's main thoroughfare, Patrick St for three months following concerns from city traders who claim that their business is down by up to 40 per cent as a result of the ban.
Councillors voted unanimously at a specially convened meeting of Cork City Council on Friday night to suspend the implementation on the ban of private cars each afternoon on Patrick St until August 9th when the issued will be re-examined.
The move came on foot of a motion by Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and was supported by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and independents and smaller parties, with all 26 councillors present from the 31 member body voting in favour of suspending the ban.
Proposing the motion, Cllr Fitzgerald said that councillors reaffirmed their support for the Cork City Centre Movement Strategy adopted by the council in 2013 which involved the introduction of the afternoon ban on private cars entering Patrick St from 3pm until 6.30pm daily.
The suspension of the private car ban would allow for a comprehensive promotional campaign for the city centre to be undertaken with traders and a campaign to increase awareness of the Cork City Centre Movement Strategy and its role in addressing traffic congestion issues.
The council also agreed to continue with incentives introduced by the council in the last week to entice people into the city centre including free Park & Ride from the Kinsale Road in the afternoon and two hours free parking in the municipally owned Paul St and North Main St car parks.
Around 40 members of the Cork Business Association, who had lobbied councillors over the past week to reverse the ban introduced on March 27th, watched on as councillors debated the motion before it was put to a vote and passed unanimously.
CBA Chief Executive Lawrence Owens welcomed the decision, saying that it gives Cork City Council and the traders breathing space to work together to address issues surrounding access to Cork city centre where some businesses have reported a drop of 40pc trade since the car ban began.
“We welcome the decision by Cork City Council unanimously tonight to pause the current restrictions on Patrick St, I think it is a very positive move, it ‘s probably a difficult decision for Cork City Council but nevertheless it’s the right one,” he said.
“It gives Cork City Council, ourselves in the business community and our customers, time to reflect on how we can engage over the coming months so in August, if this is being reintroduced, it is done in much more customer friendly way - we’ve got a breathing space and now we need to use it.”
Earlier this week, around 200 city centre traders met to express their frustration with the afternoon ban on private cars entering Patrick St which are instead diverted down Merchant’s Quay, Lavitt’s Quay, Cornmarket Street, the Grand Parade and Washington St to cross the city centre.
CBA Chairman, Philip Gillivan said the business owners, who are contributing €67 million in commercial rates to Cork City Council this year, were seriously worried about the viability of their businesses in the wake of the Patrick St private car ban.
“You, the traders have expressed fear, frustration, anger and disbelief that you are being asked to carry this for at least three months while your turnover keeps dropping,” said Mr Gillivan in reference to the three month trial period which Cork City Council had sought for the ban.
Speaker after speaker spoke about how the private car ban was just the latest in a series of setbacks for many city centre traders who had struggled to survive the Cork Main Drainage Scheme, the recession, last year’s bus strike and two serious weather events in the past six months.
Former CBA President, Pat O’Connell said that the Patrick St private car ban was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for many and he told how one customer had told him that they were no longer coming into Cork city centre to shop as it was “just too much trouble”.