Cork City traders pin hopes on supports package as another car ban looms

Traders in Cork City say they hope a supports package worth at least €300,000 will help deliver the vibrant city everyone wants as the St Patrick’s Street car ban looms again.

Businessman Eddie Mullins, who was one of the most outspoken critics of the St Patrick’s Street bus lane project last March and among several traders briefed yesterday on the August 9 reboot proposal, said traders are still nervous about it.

“What happened in March and April is still very fresh in the mind and retail is still fragile,” he said.

“But we went into the briefings yesterday with an open mind and we listened.

“We all want a vibrant city centre, with good access. As business people, we can all see the developments under way and we can all see what’s planned and we all want the city to be better.

“We are all part of the fabric of the city. We want people to come in and shop, We just hope the supporting measures will have the desired effect.”

 

Lawrence Owens, chief executive of the Cork Business Association, said it is vital to avoid the scenario which unfolded last March and April.

“There were no winners from that. I think we now have a suite of measures that are positive and helpful. We are hopeful that it will lead to a positive result,” he said.

Two months after the project was suspended amid controversy, city council transport officials spent yesterday briefing traders on the City Centre Movement Strategy (CCMS), on its most controversial element — the St Patrick’s Street car ban — and the supports package now in place.

A softer implementation has been promised this time, with no warning signs and no gardaí on point duty.

An extended park and ride service, parking deals, and a €200,000 marketing campaign should drive home the message that the city is open for business and accessible, they said.

A map showing the proposed locations of the network of up to 26 free 15-minute set-down parking spaces.

They accepted that the public perception will be critical, and they said they will liaise closely with traders as it is implemented.

“It’s terribly important that people understand that the city is open, is accessible, it is easier to get to the city on public transport and via the car. And people who chose to come via car will have an additional range of incentives available to them from the get-go,” said Gerry O’Beirne, the city’s head of transportation.

“We believe the strategy will be successful.

“A broad range of measures have been teased through and are being introduced that I think will support the positive perception of the city, and enhance the attractiveness of the city for people who want to come by car or by bus, or by other modes as well.

 

“The city has a hugely distinctive offering and it’s vitally important to have that articulated.”

  

Mr O’Beirne said elements of the CCMS are critical for the drawdown of €200m of Government funding to improve the city’s bus network over the next 10 years.

And as the bus service improves, more park and rides will be developed, he said.

Lord Mayor Mick Finn said with office developments set to deliver up to 5,000 jobs in the next three years, the CCMS is vital to future-proof the city.

“With such significant growth expected in an enlarged Cork City, the status quo will not do,” he said.

“People often complain we don’t do forward planning well in Ireland: well, this is forward planning in action.”

“Measures we sought, such as drop-off zones, expanded park and ride options, and cheaper parking, will accompany this iteration of the project.

“City retail and service operators need to get behind it as it will yield results. Encountered issues must be monitored as, indeed, must the impact on residents in the city, particularly the Middle Parish where some traffic is diverted through.”

Dean Venables, chairman of the Cork Cycling Campaign, said while the St Patrick’s St measures have relatively little benefits for cyclists, they support measures promoting efficient use of the road space.

“As we have pointed out previously, pedestrianisation elsewhere in Cork, notably on Oliver Plunkett St, has been hugely successful in adding to the vibrancy and attractiveness of that district,” he said.

Another campaign member, Adam D’Arcy, said it should also be remembered that last April — when criticism of the car ban was at its height — was the wettest and dullest April since 1987 and may have affected trade.

The Green Party said the reboot should be accompanied by a retail festival celebrating the main street.

Labour representatives in the city, John Maher, Luke Field, and Peter Horgan, called for more engagement with the public.



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