Traders in Cork city centre have called for the immediate reversal of an afternoon ban on private cars on the city's main thoroughfare, Patrick Street, warning that failure to do so will lead to many family owned businesses being forced to close.
Cork Business Association (CBA) chief executive Lawrence Owens said the organisation, which represents about 200 businesses, believed the decision by Cork City Council to close Patrick Street to private cars from 3pm to 6.30pm every day was having a devastating impact on city centre traders.
Mr Owens said the CBA fully recognised the need to plan for the future growth of the city and the Cork Movement Strategy was an important part of that planning, but the decision to ban private cars from Patrick Street was a mistake.
One of the features that made Cork unique as a shopping destination was the high number of family-owned indigenous businesses, but these businesses were feeling the brunt of the ban and many feared for their survival, he said.
The CBA had surveyed its members on the new traffic plan introduced on March 27th and the response was overwhelmingly negative.
Mr Owens said: “Our very real concern is that the negative implications of these changes will continue and threaten the viability of those businesses we all wish to protect.
“The anger, frustration, and indeed fear among traders is palpable, many wondering how they will continue to trade and indeed meet their staff wages, such has been the effect this has had on business in the city.
“We would not be exaggerating in saying the decision to implement this new traffic restriction has resulted for a complex number of reasons in Cork city’s most continued negative trading period in recent history.”
Mr Owens said traders acknowledged the decision by Cork City Council chief executive officer Ann Doherty to introduce free park and ride from noon until 6pm from the Black Ash on the Kinsale Road and reduce parking charges at the council owned North Main St and Paul St multi-storey car parks.
While the measures were welcome, they should have been introduced before the Patrick Street car ban became a reality, when they might have helped reduce the current adverse effects the restrictions are having on trade.
Announcing the mitigation measures, Ms Doherty said Cork City Council was always willing to listen to the traders and work in partnership with them. She pleaded with traders to give the Patrick Street private car ban and the parking incentives time to bed in.
Mr Owens said the impact of the ban, which Ms Doherty said is being trialled over a three month period, was such that traders do not have more time and if there wasn’t a resolution immediately then Cork would “undoubtedly see business closures and consequentially job losses”.
“The CBA publicly indicated prior to the introduction of these new traffic arrangements on Patrick Street that if they didn’t work they must cancelled,” he said. “It is blindingly obvious that for whatever reasons they are not working and we request that this happen immediately in the best interest of the city.”