“Park it” — that’s the message from businesspeople in an East Cork town who claim a proposed revamp of their main street will cost the local economy dearly.
Midleton Traders’ Association are seeking the public’s support and are lobbying town councillors ahead of an important meeting tomorrow night at which the town council will decide on whether it will go ahead with a controversial €2m plan to change the layout of the town centre.
The plan will, if adopted, make the street more accessible to pedestrians, but enhancing these footpaths will result in the loss of a further 16 car parking spaces. That’s in addition to eight which were lost last year on the main street as well as part of similar works.
Not only are the traders concerned about the reduction of car parking spaces, they’re also worried the disruption caused during construction of the new layout will put off shoppers.
Midleton Traders’ Association spokesman, Fergus McCarthy, said: “This will drive shoppers out of the main street. They are widening the footpaths and this could take over two years to complete.”
The town council wants to replace the footpaths with red brick to ‘improve pedestrian flow and the overall environmental quality of the town’.
Mr McCarthy, whose association has 140-plus members, said by the council’s own calculations the loss of the parking spaces could cost local retailers nearly €1.5m per year.
However, he said his members believe the figure “will be considerably higher”.
“The painful experience learned from the first phase (last year) also suggests that when customers leave due to the disruption caused during construction, they do not return,” Mr McCarthy said.
He said that on a daily basis he and fellow businesspeople were having conversations with disgruntled shoppers who couldn’t find a place to park in the town centre.
“They say they drive up and down the town three times and find nowhere to park. They then head off to Carrigtwohill or somewhere else instead. If this goes ahead the situation will get even worse and we will end up losing more and more business.”
Finally and most importantly, the traders believe that any footpath works should not take place prior to the completion of a flood relief scheme which could take at least four years.
Mr McCarthy said digging up a brand new street does not make sense and that fixing the flooding issue is far more urgent.
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