A delegation of traders has warned councillors there will be job losses at their businesses if a radical revamp of Carrick-on-Suir's Sean Kelly Square and West Gate goes ahead as currently proposed.
The delegation representing an estimated 18 businesses employing in Sean Kelly Square and the West Gate issued this stark warning during a presentation they gave to Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District's six councillors before their monthly meeting.
A Part 8 planning application for the revamp of the streetscape of Sean Kelly Square and West Gate is currently before the local authority. It proposes removing nine parking spaces from Sean Kelly Square and two from the junction of Bridge St. and the Westgate.
It also proposes realigning and resurfacing the road carriageway to improve traffic flow and slow vehicle speeds and the construction of kerb build-outs to create a public realm area, footpath widening and resurfacing, the creation of pedestrian crossings, modernising public lighting and relocating road gullies and connections.
Butcher John Hogan, accountant Anne Marie Power and restaurant owner Martin Gannon welcomed the Council's proposal to upgrade and invest in the Square and West Gate area but pointed out that plans to remove 100 per cent of the parking spaces would damage local businesses.
They also raised concerns that there was no provision in the draft public realm plan designed by consulting firm Atkins for loading bays and parking spaces for people with disabilities. And concern was raised at the proposal to widen the footpaths in the Westgate area.
When asked by Fianna Fail Cllr Kieran Bourke what they saw as the future for their businesses if the draft plan in its current form proceeds, Mr Gannon and Mr Hogan both said they saw themselves employing fewer people as their trade would be hugely affected. "If turnover goes down, our staff goes down," said Mr Gannon.
Mr Gannon, proprietor of Marty's Pantry on Sean Kelly Square, told councillors the loss of 100 per cent of parking spaces was just not viable for businesses in the Square and Westgate.
He said he purchased the premises his restaurant is based in about 18 years ago because there was parking outside the door. The restricted parking rules in the area meant a high turn over of vehicles parking there. This was what local businesses wanted.
Anne Marie Power said the parking rules were working well in the area. People just parked their vehicles, did they business and moved on.
"It's very important for the viability of traders," she said of the current parking provisions. "They are trying to keep their doors open and employ people."
Mr Gannon raised the absence of any loading bays from the plan and Anne Marie Power said when they raised this at the public information meeting about the public realm plan it was suggested that delivery vans just illegally park in the Square. This wasn't a solution, she argued, and pointed out there was also a need to address the absence of disability parking in the Square.
John Hogan, proprietor of Kehoe's Butchers at Westgate, said the design consultants who devised the public realm plan never considered the population of Carrick-on-Suir when preparing the plan. Carrick was smaller than towns like Tralee, Clonmel and Dungarvan. You weren't comparing like with like. The consultants also weren't allowed look at the issue of traffic flow in the Sean Kelly and Westgate areas or the long term plan to build a third bridge over the River Suir in the town.
"We want development and money spent on our area but we also want to keep the 18 to 20 businesses in the Westgate Mall as I call it. We would like to keep what we have. We are all employing people and paying rates," he added.
Mr Gannon said they were also worried about the proposal to widen the footpaths at the narrow Westgate. Further narrowing the road carraigeway on this stretch of street was not an option, he argued.
"We think that is not physically possible. As it is, trucks struggle to get through the Westgate anyway. You are only going to cause more hold ups at the Westgate unless you buy up buildings, which is always going to be difficult and is not going to happen, he said.
Mullinahone Cllr Eddie O'Meara pointed to the need for parking outside Carrick-on-Suir Post Office located in the Square. A lot of the Post Office's customers were elderly people and they needed quick and easy access to located in the Square.
He suggested that alternatively a public plaza be developed in front of Super Valu where there was a large parking area. Mr Gannon responded that this parking area in front of Super Valu was on long term lease from the Council to the supermarket and Super Valu's proprietors didn't want to lose parking spaces anywhere in that area.
Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District Chairman Cllr John Fahey asked if the traders had any alternative proposals in relation to parking? Mr Gannon replied that their big alternative was to keep the parking spaces where they are currently.
Anne Marie Power made two suggestions in relation to parking alternatives and presented a copy of Carrick-on-Suir Business Association's submission to the public consultation process on the public realm plan outlining local businesses concerns to the councillors.
Cllr Fahey concluded the meeting by suggesting councillors meet the traders again privately.
Mr Gannon said the traders plan to submit alternative options in relation to parking to councillors following a meeting of the traders this week.