The Cork Business Association fully accepts that cities have to change and that the process of change can sometimes be difficult. The population increase alone that Cork City will experience in the next 20 years will be significant, aside from its physical expansion under the City boundary alteration. We agree we must plan for this change and that the Cork Movement Strategy is an important part of this process. However as we plan for the future it is equally important that we retain those elements of our city that make us unique. Unquestionably one of those elements is the high number of local indigenous businesses which we fortunately still have in Cork. Their survival is of course not guaranteed and a recent announcement of a multi-generational businesses closing in Cork city reaffirms this reality.
On the 27thof March this year new traffic arrangements were introduced in Patrick Street and the subsequent impact of these changes on business in the city and on the minds of our customers who visit our city has regretfully been negative. Our very real concern is that the negative implications of these changes will continue and threaten the viability of those businesses we all wish to protect.
To address the very real concerns of traders the Cork Business Association acknowledges the recent announcement by Cork City Council of a number of parking incentives and a marketing campaign to support City Centre businesses. We of course welcome any initiatives that will encourage people to return and visit our wonderful city. However it is our view that it would have been more productive to launch these measures prior to the introduction of the current traffic restrictions. Had we so done we may have to some degree reduced the current adverse effects that the restrictions are having on city centre footfall and consequently on trade in our city.
We have over the past weeks consulted with our members and indeed the wider business community. We have also been out there on the street every day, speaking to business owners /managers and listening to their concerns, as to how their business is suffering as a direct or indirect result of these new traffic restrictions. The anger, frustration, and indeed fear among traders is palpable, many wondering how they will continue to trade and indeed meet their staff wages such has been the effect this has had on business in the city. We have relayed the extreme concern of businesses directly to Cork City Council to ensure they were in no doubt of how serious this issue is for business. We would not be exaggerating in saying the decision to implement this new traffic restriction has resulted for a complex number of reasons in Cork city’s most continued negative trading period in recent history.
Cork City Council has asked for more time for these changes to bed in and to see will the proposed incentives improve the situation. The direct response of the Cork Business Association has been that businesses do not have more time and if we don’t see a resolution immediately we will undoubtedly see business closures and consequentially job losses. The Cork Business Association clearly and publically indicated prior to the introduction of these new traffic arrangements on Patrick Street that if they didn’t work they must cancelled. It is blindingly obvious that for whatever reasons they are not working and we request that in the best interest of the city that this happen immediately. We as an organisation have always strived to work in partnership with all stakeholders. However partnership is a two way process and we are now asking the primary partner Cork City Council to respond positively to our under circumstances reasonable demand.
We need to urgently get businesses back trading normally and then without the intense pressure that the current situation is putting on all stakeholders and in a better atmosphere discuss and plan together how we go forward as a city. There are many lessons that can be learnt from the current situation from better communications to real and meaningful citizen engagement and we need to use this knowledge collectively for the betterment of our city and its customers
Finally, Cork City is open for business and we encourage people to come in and enjoy all our incredible city has to offer.