Traders still reeling from the huge fire at a suburban shopping centre almost six weeks ago have accused insurance companies of dragging their heels on compensation payouts.
Representatives of the 30 independent traders at Douglas Village shopping centre in Cork, who have been forced to close since fire ripped through its car park on August 31, said they are all still waiting for their insurance companies to pay out in full.
“The insurance companies are fobbing us off,” said a spokesman for the traders.
“We all had business insurance (BI) to protect against an unexpected event. This was, by any stretch of the imagination, an unexpected event.
“None of us was negligent, yet we have had to bear the full impact of this. And it’s been devastating. Hundreds of jobs have been lost.
And, still, we can’t get our BI sorted. We all paid massive premiums to get this cover — to cover loss of gross profits in the event of a disaster like this.
“Some of the insurance companies have paid out 10% or 15% but they won’t settle the full amount until they get further clarity on what’s going on.”
But there is still no clear timeline for about when demolition and repairs will start on site.
It’s understood that talks about full and final compensation payouts can’t or won’t take place until the shopping centre owners clarify in writing the duration of closure and a possible reopening date.
Two weeks after the fire, traders were told that it could be summer 2020 before the shopping centre would reopen.
Amid ongoing uncertainty, the traders have prepared plans for a temporary mini-retail park on a disused car park to the rear of Douglas Woollen Mills which could accommodate 37 container-style structures.
An intermediary, retail expert Terry Coleman, has been liaising on their behalf with the centre’s landlord and with City Hall on this proposal and other issues.
Mr Coleman, who met senior city officials on Tuesday, said they view the work proposed for the shopping centre as “repairs and maintenance” and not as demolition, which means that planning permission or a demolition licence is not required.
He also said officials have confirmed that the temporary retail park would require planning permission and that they are willing to meet with the traders again.