Cork council aims to be first to establish designated casual trading areas

The move comes as some fixed businesses fear that casual traders are "taking over" popular tourist areas 
Cork council aims to be first to establish designated casual trading areas
Cork County Council Senior Executive Officer MacDara O'Hicisays that introducing bylaws is a complicated matter as older laws, created by former town councils are still lawful. Picture: Denis Minihane.

An archivist has completed a painstaking report on historic market rights in Co Cork, which should allow the county council to become the first local authority in the country to establish designated casual trading areas.

The news comes amid heightened concerns that casual traders are 'taking over' many tourist and scenic areas and gaining unfair advantage on fixed businesses who are struggling to cope due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Four years ago the council decided to introduce bylaws to regulate areas where casual traders could operate.

However, it was quickly informed it would face a number of legal challenges from casual traders who claimed they had rights to their 'pitch' because there were decrees from former British monarchs, stretching back centuries, which allow them to operate in places not being designated.

It is believed some of the decrees even allowed for casual trading in entire towns.

Claims were also made that generations of traders had been using the same areas and as such couldn't be pushed out because they had established a law of custom.

Concerns about a huge increase in casual trading were expressed at a meeting of the Bandon/Kinsale Municipal District Council.

Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan said she has received complaints from rate-paying businesses who are competing directly with them.

Ms Coughlan said such trading is becoming far more popular in tourist areas because of staycations and the amount of people taking day trips.

Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said in recent weekends at Garretstown beach casual trading trucks "were parked everywhere". 

"They were even double-parked and that is very dangerous,” he said.

Independent councillor Alan Coleman said the delay in getting the bylaws enacted is very frustrating and that the situation needs to be regularised as quickly as possible.

The Kinsale area in particular has seen an influx of casual traders since the Covid-19 lockdown has started to ease and people take days outs to beauty spots and seaside areas. The traders run operations as small as mobile coffee shops up to major catering trucks.

Other municipal district areas which cover the coastline, especially in the West Cork area, have also reported significant increases in casual traders.

Senior executive officer MacDara O'Hici said he understands the frustration, but introducing the bylaws had become a complicated matter due to threats of 11 court cases and the legacy of ancient market rights.

However, he pointed out progress is being made and the archivist's report has been forwarded to the council's legal team for scrutiny. It will then become clear what tweaking may have to be made to get the bylaws enacted.

Mr O'Hici said some bylaws are in place which are created by former town councils and they are still lawful. However, he said the penalties contained within them “are no deterrent".

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