Cork city traders are to lobby local councillors ahead of a Cork City Council meeting next week to get the council to reverse an afternoon ban on private cars from Patrick Street.
Traders say the ban has led to a drop in trade of up to 50 per cent and is threatening the survival of many family owned businesses.
Around 200 city centre traders attended a meeting organised by the Cork Business Association (CBA) on Wednesday night where many traders expressed frustration with Cork City Council and warned that the Patrick Street ban would force many family-owned businesses to close.
CBA chairman, Philip Gillivan, said business owners in Cork city centre were concerned about the viability of their businesses on foot of the decision by Cork City Council, introduced on March 27th, to ban private cars from Patrick Street between 3pm and 6.30pm each day.
“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, who revealed city traders are contributing €67 million this year in commercial rates to Cork City Council.
The mood of frustration and anger was reflected by manager of the Merchant's Quay, multi-storey car park, John Conlon, who warned that Cork City Council's strategy of getting private cars out of Cork city centre and replacing them with public transport, would not work.
Mr Conlon said proof of such a strategy was evident in the declining numbers using the Merchant’s Quay car park. In 2006 some 818,000 cars used the facility, whereas by 2017 the number had dropped to 564,000 – a 35 per cent drop over 10 years. Some 700 fewer cars used the facility in the week after Easter this year compared to the same period last year, he said.
However, Cllr Des Cahill said that changing commuting patterns had seen a 25 per cent increase in the number using buses to access the city centre over the past fours and each full bus was the equivalent of taking 60 cars out of the city centre, relieving congestion.
The private car ban was strongly criticised by most speakers at the meeting. Frank Lee, whose family has run the Tung Sing restaurant on Patrick Street for more than 50 years, said the ban was having a serious impact on family-owned businesses such as theirs.
Mr Lee said that where once there were many family-owned businesses on Patrick Street, there were now only seven, and it seemed Cork City Council was more concerned in catering for large international companies than independent family-owned businesses.
Several speakers related how ban was just the latest in a series of setbacks for city centre traders who had struggled to survive the main drainage scheme, the recession, last year’s bus strike and two serious weather events in the past six months.
One proposal from Paul O’Neill, who runs a barber’s shop on Washington Street, was to withhold rates from Cork City Council and it received the backing of around 50 traders but a decision was taken to defer any such move until traders give Cork City Council a chance to reverse the ban.
Following contributions from a number of Cork city councillors, the traders agreed to contact local councillors and attend next Monday’s council meeting and if Cork City Council opts not to reverse the private car ban, the group would meet again next week to decide on a strategy to press for change.