Traders in one of Ireland’s top food markets have kicked up a stink over local authority plans to develop a public toilet at its entrance.
The business owners in Cork’s historic English Market say they are “aghast” at city council proposals to spend up to €100,000 adapting the council-owner former Hilser jewellers building, located between the market’s landmark Grand Parade entrances, into one of the city’s biggest public toilets.
“Traders are genuinely upset and aghast,” said Rebecca Harte, who runs the Farmgate restaurant in the market.
“We have been asking for that building to be incorporated into the market for a very long time.
"The idea that a large-scale public toilet would be placed in a building that dominates the main entrance of Ireland’s most historic covered food market is baffling."
The proposal is contained in a policy document on the provision of public toilets in Cork city centre which will be presented to a meeting of the city council on Monday.
It sets out a raft of proposals to deliver a range of public toilet facilities in the city, involving both the public and private sector, with some vacant buildings earmarked for conversion into loo facilities.
If approved, the former Hilsers building would operate as a supervised loo, open 10am to 8pm, up to six days a week.
“The idea that public toilets would be placed at the main entrance to the market, in such close proximity to food preparation, delivery and sales, and where plumbing is an issue — the market’s sewer system has to be drained monthly as it’s such a problem — it just beggars belief," Ms Harte said on behalf of market traders.
The market already has supervised public toilet faculties, which are open longer than what’s proposed.
Traders said the money earmarked for Hilsers building loo should be used instead to upgrade the existing public toilets just across the road outside Bishop Lucey Park, which were closed and abandoned in 2019 after repeated antisocial behaviour.
“This brings home, yet again, the council’s lack of commitments to, and vision for Cork’s historic English Market,” Ms Harte said.
“We would much prefer that they would address the leaking roof over the market, and out-of-date plumbing.”
The council’s director of operations, David Joyce, declined to be drawn on the specifics of the policy document ahead of Monday’s meeting.
But he said officials have conducted a survey of what public toilet facilities are currently available, they have assessed the level of demand, and examined the various solutions provided across Europe, in the preparation of the policy document.
“There are different types of solutions, no one solution fits all and what’s provided depends on the circumstances,” Mr Joyce said.
“The policy includes direct provision of such facilities by the local authority, private sector involvement, some will be made available on the public street, others will be made available in buildings.
“But above all, what we want to ensure is that they are safe and clean."
According to www.pee.ie, a site which maps publicly available toilets across Ireland, there are just eight public toilets on Cork’s city island area — none of which are operated by the local authority and many of which were closed during lockdown.
Three are in public buildings — The English Market, the Crawford Gallery, and the bus station — the rest are associated with large shops.