11:33 AM

Patrick Street Pedestrianisation Cork

Let’s take a look at the data released by #corkcc viewable on Twitter. First of all, footfall numbers are being compared week on week, instead of this time last year. Secondly, it’s lovely to say footfall is up on the final week of data there, which also happens to be Halloween week and you’re only comparing it with the previous non Halloween week. Obviously Halloween week is going to have an increase in footfall. Thirdly, is it at all conceivable, that demographics matter? Did you count in your footfall data, how many people were rural people? Did you count how many were elderly? Did you count how many were disabled? Which leads me into the businesses that have gone public on the fact that they are struggling.

Susan Ryan’s beauty therapy shop, which is ground floor with widened doorways for accessibility. She reports that #panaban2, means her high percentage of elderly and infirm clients now cannot be dropped to the door by car like they previously could. Is it not conceivable she could be adversely effected as a business directly because of pedestrianisation efforts, despite footfall numbers.

Let’s look at Tom Murphy’s menswear, they reported that a large number of their clientele come from rural areas, do the footfall numbers count how many rural people were there? They do not. Is it conceivable that rural people who are already nervous about coming into town have become more so under a non-accessible by car Patrick Street? Is it conceivable a car ban on Patrick Street might adversely effect those with a rural clientele more than those with an urban clientele?

Let’s take John Graces fried chicken, they have reported a drop, Cafe Velo came out and reported an increase, Cafe Velo do breakfast and lunch, would it make sense to people that people don’t typically eat fried chicken for breakfast? Would it be conceivable that maybe the top time for people to start eating fried chicken is at 2-3pm, therefore is it conceivable that Cafe Velo and John Graces would have totally different experiences under a car ban.

This isn’t even about reversing the car ban, because I guarantee you, all of the small traders struggling now would support the ban in exchange for a rates reduction. The burden on them with the cost of rates is phenomenal. And don’t forget, people like John Graces and businesses the length of Oliver Plunkett Street were flooded a few years back, they had to repair their premises at their own cost because they can’t get insurance for that area based on previous flooding. But they still got their full rates bill. No amnesty for flooding.

There’s never a reduction and there’s never a rates amnesty, and the very first time small independent retailers stick their heads above water to say ‘Help!’ after #panaban2, they’ve been patronized, insinuated as being liars, accused of having an agenda, accused of being bad business people, the book has been thrown at them by almost all of the politicians and it’s an utter disgrace.

Why have these businesses survived 20 years and 40 years? It’s because they’re not built on debt. Banks don’t typically lend to small businesses because the income isn’t there for it, so they build up their business brick by brick by taking no wage and reinvesting profits. The lack of debt makes them a sustainable business over decades, but the lack of ability to borrow makes them vulnerable in the short term, which is now. If the income isn’t there they can’t just subsidise the business by borrowing. But if they’re helped to get over the hump, they’ll be here another 40 years. Unlike some of these modern fly by night businesses that are built on top of a pile of investor and bank debt, and gone within two years because they were unsustainable.

Can I just say to people, I’m going to start using a hashtag #corkbuy and it doesn’t matter if it was a chain or a local business, start sharing what you bought in the city centre whether it was clothes, lunch or a haircut. At the end of the day, if you went on a splurge in pennies and afterwards got John Graces that’s supporting local business, the busier the centre is overall whether chain vs local shops the better. Please bear in mind coming up to Christmas the independent retailers, you could get a gorgeous hat or shirt for people in Tom Murphy’s, a gift card in Susan Ryan’s beauty salon and grab a snack box in John Graces after shopping! It’s up to us to make the effort to make the high street look like Cork people live here like a shop with Tom Murphy at the top of it rather than an entire street of non Irish, UK and American stores. We need little Cork businesses to add character and colour to the streets.

Pedestrianisation could work.

  • Allow taxis through to cater for elderly.
  • Have disabled spaces accessible.
  • Loading bays accessible for 4pm (Afternoon) deliveries. (Note the pharmacist that came forward under #panaban1 to say he had to send patients away to another pharmacy in the afternoon as he was missing his second delivery every day)

Most importantly, an overall review of the rates system to give reduction to small independent business or, accept they will not survive the short term transition and that the new high street with great footfall is made up of McDonald’s, Burger King and Boots, there will no longer be Cork businesses on Cork high streets.

Looking into crystal ball, pedestrianisation is a huge success, loads of people city centre, everyone claps themselves on the back for a job well done, but there’s no independent trader left there anymore, just a bunch of chain shops. We can make sure that doesn’t happen.

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