Cork County Council bosses have been asked to use its Economic Development Section to come up with some kind of support or compensation package for businesses which suffer financial losses during major infrastructure works.
Cllr Cathal Rasmussen won widespread support for the move from colleagues when he pointed out he is very concerned that his hometown of Cobh is looking at up to four years of major upheaval.
He said that work had just got underway in the town on the Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage project and that would take about two years to complete and involve a number of road closures and detours.
When this is finished, the town will undergo a major streetscape upgrade, he said, which will take a further 18 months to two years to complete.
He suggested these works will upset tourism and threatens the survival of several businesses.
“Businesses will struggle. As a council we have a duty to provide some respite for them. Businesses might not be in a position to pay rates,” Cllr Rasmussen said.
Cobh-based Cllr Sean O'Connor said he totally agreed and many shops in the town are already struggling.
Cllr Seamus McGrath said many towns are struggling to keep businesses on the high street.
“I would like to see our Economic Development Section use some creative thinking to support businesses,” he added.
Cllr Marcia D'Alton said she had great sympathy for Cobh businesses as they would go through a similar experience to Passage West and Monkstown where works have been finished with some businesses down 30% on normal takings.
“It is extremely important that the council supports local businesses. We need to be creative,” Cllr Sinead Shepperd said.
“I know it is (rates) a source of income for us, but we need to be proactive,” Cllr Susan McCarthy said.
The last thing we want in rural towns in an increased level of vacancy.
A number of councillors then highlighted significant problems encountered in their own towns by businesses due to major infrastructure projects.
Cllr Joe Carroll said a hotel in West Cork suffered a dramatic loss in income because of roadworks nearby, especially when the contractor overran the project into the height of the summer season.
Cllr Sean O'Donovan said his hometown of Bandon was halfway through a major main drainage scheme and businesses are taking a hit.
“Any major works in a town can prove a nightmare for businesses. We need some realistic proposals to help them. A number of businesses went to the wall in Kinsale during major roadworks between 2008 and 2011,” Cllr Kevin Murphy said.
Cllr Paul Hayes said one service station in West Cork proved its turnover was down by 70% because of roadworks.
Cllr Pat Hayes said major flood work in Mallow diverted shoppers elsewhere and it was quite difficult to win them back.
Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan, said clearly there was an issue and got agreement that the council's Economic Development Section should look at it.