Cork County Council has launched a robust defence of its role in the row over the removal of the landmark Piper’s funfair ‘showman’s wagon’ from a square in Kinsale.
The local authority has also defended the “exceptionally modest” rent it charges the Piper family for the use of the tradition funfair site - a public car park - it has been using since the late 1930s.
The council said the rental charges reflected a contribution to the council services provided in the town and which would be enjoyed by visitors to the funfair.
In a statement today, the council said it has traditionally charged Piper’s funfair an “exceptionally modest rent” for the occupation of what it described as a “popular town centre carpark” in Kinsale.
“The carpark is sizable, with capacity for up to 50 vehicles and the Piper funfair has operated from this site for a long period of time,” it said.
The council said the Piper family engaged in discussions with it during 2019 to update and regularise the annual arrangement for the funfair and the formal proposals included specific increases to the charge starting in 2019.
But Covid forced the suspension of the funfair in 2020 and 2021.
Last week, Brendan Piper said when he enquired earlier this year about resuming the funfair this summer, the council sought an increase in rent for his summer, and flagged an additional €1,000 in rent for next summer, an additional €2,500 in 2024 and a staggering €5,000 extra for 2025.
He said those increases put the funfair’s entire future in the town at risk.
Today, the council said when the Piper family indicated earlier this year that they wished to return to Kinsale this summer, their attention was drawn to the previously discussed rental changes, which contain the rent significantly below market levels but reflect a necessary contribution for services which are provided by the council in Kinsale.
“These services are partly funded through commercial rates which is a tax incurred by local businesses and is an important source of funding for the council to provide essential services, maintain public spaces, and provide amenities including carparks, public conveniences and litter bins,” it said.
“As the funfair does not incur commercial rates during the temporary occupation of the car park, the income from the rental is applied to support the services which are available for visitors to the funfair.
“The funfair is traditional to the site and a unique offering for the town residents and visitors and it is in this context that the rent payment has been, and continues to be, heavily subsidised.
“The rent proposed for 2022 is a nominal charge in the context of commercial rents incurred by ratepayers in the town.”
The council also defended its involvement in a process which led to the removal of Piper’s famous showman’s wagon from its traditional parking spot on the Short Quay plaza.
The council said it engaged in a legal process, which was initiated by the owners of “a caravan’ previously parked in the Short Quay, to address the owners right to occupy the public area and the owner of the caravan subsequently removed the caravan on a voluntary basis.
Mr Piper said he had no choice but to remove it after being threatened that it would be impounded.
The council said: “It is normal and appropriate for the council to refute unestablished claims to permanently occupy public areas or unsubstantiated claims of ownership.”