Uncontrolled street trading is causing "absolute mayhem" in a tourist town, it was claimed yesterday.
Efforts to resolve the situation in Kenmare, Co Kerry, have been going on for up to 30 years, but the problem is no nearer resolution.
Established businesses and street traders are at loggerheads with Kerry County Council, which withdrew new trading proposals earlier this year after a legal challenge by both groups.
The council has appointed a barrister to review the situation in the hope of finding a solution acceptable to all parties. A six-week consultation period is to be held early in the new year in a bid to reach consensus.
Kenmare Chamber of Commerce has set up a sub-committee, led by businessman Bertie McSwiney, to lobby the council.
Mr McSwiney stressed the chamber had no objection in principle to street trading.
“What we want is properly controlled and regulated street trading, one day per week and in a safe place — not on the main thoroughfare,’’ Mr McSwiney told the Irish Examiner.
“If street trading is done properly, it could help Kenmare and bring people into the town, but it’s absolute mayhem at present.”
As the number of street traders rose in recent years, the council sought to replace old market rights with new casual trading laws, with the town square designated as the only casual trading area.
However, street traders argued that this arrangement would be too restrictive, while the chamber maintained too many pitches — 29 — were being reserved in the square for street traders six days per week.
The chamber wants casual trading to be moved about 50m from the square to an area in Park St designated by the council for the purpose in 1997. It also wants to restrict street trading to one day per week, as had been the case in the past.
Mr McSwiney said a set-down area for tourist coaches was needed in the town, ideally in the square.
A council spokesman confirmed a full review of the situation is to take place in the coming weeks.
An options document will be published in January and consultations will then take place, with all parties to help reach a consensus, he said.
Local councillors have been coming under growing pressure on the issue, with Independent Johnny Healy-Rae saying the rejected proposed bylaws were “ridiculous’’ and not acceptable to anyone.
Fine Gael councillor Patrick Connor Scarteen said the proposals put forward were “very unfair” to businesses in the town.
“Any new proposals must be fair and my main concern is that they are brought forward as quickly as possible and that there won’t be any more unnecessary delays in rectifying the situation,” said Mr Connor.
The council described the issue as “complex”, and said how other towns is dealt with a similar situation is also being looked at.
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