Irish Examiner View: Use our city centres or they will fade away

Irish Examiner View: Use our city centres or they will fade away
Pedestrians on St. Patrick's Street in Cork city. Picture Denis Minihane.

Anyone who campaigned to save a rural school, post office, or bus service has run into the use-it-or-lose ultimatum.

That argument, in an accounting sense, is relevant but when social issues are the concern it is less relevant, less convincing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought these issues into sharp focus but not just in rural areas. It has accelerated the evisceration of town and city centres but that process was welladvanced by online shopping.

Cork’s main street, once gloriously bustling, risks becoming a collection of empty shop fronts once again. Efforts to make the city more user-friendly by curtailing traffic were resisted.

The decline continues.

Something similar has happened in Limerick where recovery plans involving temporary pedestrianising of some streets have been pared back, despite the majority of public submissions to the council being “broadly in favour of the proposals”. The reversal is, say the council, on foot of “serious concerns” raised by traders.

It is not difficult to understand those concerns, but the two must find a way to coexist.

As retail moves online, the old idea of a city as a shopping centre spread over a network of streets is increasingly redundant.

How urban centres are saved is a question facing almost every city in the world.

We now have the opportunity to reimagine our city centres. Making them more user-friendly is one answer, buying locally from one of the stores in our cities rather than via a click of a button is another. The old use-it-or-lose-it argument again...

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