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Councillor Suggests Carpark Use For Outdoor Dining In Carrigaline

Writes Ciaran Dineen

At the latest meeting of the Carrigaline Municipal District on Thursday, councillors convened together for the first time since their February meeting following postponements due to Covid-19. Towards the end of the brief session, Councillor Liam O’Connor (FG) brought forward a suggestion to the Council that would help businesses in the local area when restrictions on cafes and restaurants begin to be lifted in the coming weeks. The move would see car spaces at the front of the Owenabue Carpark procured and used instead as extra seating capacity for adjacent businesses.

Speaking in the Council Chambers in County Hall Cllr O’Connor said, “I understand that Cork County Council are currently assessing the county’s towns in order to identify measures which may be proposed to facilitate easier social distancing and encourage economic revival as we move though restriction-lifting. Could we look at converting an area within the front section of the carpark into a seated open-air café/social area which follow the strict Covid-19 spacing requirements and give local cafes, takeaways and restaurants use of this area.”

Councillor O’Connor’s call comes at a time when other initiatives are being suggested and advocated for which involve similar cases. At the end of April business owners on the busy Cork City trading block on Princes Street came together as a group and brought a plan of action to Cork City Council that would see open-street access for the development of an outdoor eating area. This would result in the street being closed to vehicle access and essentially become fully pedestrianised.

Many people will have experienced such business and social settings on their holidays and trips abroad where pedestrianisation, open-air cafés and street food vendors are the norm. In response to the Coronavirus the capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius have taken progressive steps to help put businesses back on their feet with similar initiatives. With their tourism and hospitality industry facing critical threats due to social distancing requirements, the city’s mayor took the decision to give local businesses additional space in plazas and streets to allow them to maintain as high a capacity as possible, for which he has been praised.

Councillor O’Connor believes businesses in Carrigaline are in need of Council help also and said that the scheme he proposed “would someway help jump-start the town’s commercial activity”.

The Councillor received support from his Carrigaline MD colleagues, with Chair Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) noting that work in the Council was going on behind the scenes looking at measures akin to that of Cllr O’Connor. Afterwards Cllr McGrath suggested that the same approach could be taken in other areas of Carrigaline’s Main Street and that the Council could use the Circus Field as a temporary carpark, pointing out that this had been done before. Cllr McGrath says that when this suggestion was put to Council Officers that the feedback was positive.

It is hoped that in the immediate future Councillors will be informed by party leaders from the county over measures that will be taken to help support businesses throughout Cork. With tourism expected to fall off dramatically for the remainder of the year, those in the hospitality sector are set to be up against it, but with forward-thinking we might see some positivity in such difficult times.

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