GRASP the nettle and identify the streets in each town which are appropriate for pavement signage and street furniture.
That’s the message from Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) who raised the motion at a recent meeting of the West Cork Municipal District and said that in the absence of a county-wide policy, something needed to be done before the next tourist season begins.
He said it was a topic that they have returned to several times in the past regarding the whole issue of street furniture and pavement signage in towns.
‘While this issue was kicked into the Tourism Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) to deal with it, they are still unable to recommend a county policy. I’m asking here that we grasp the nettle in this Municipal District and go street-by-street to look at which ones are suitable,’ said Cllr Hayes.
‘When it’s done properly, it adds to the ambiance of the place and allows businesses to advertise. However, when it’s not done properly, and signs or seats are put on narrow footpaths, it forces pedestrians out onto the roadway. I ask that we identify the various streets of the towns where it would be suitable and then liaise with the chambers in each town and disability groups.’
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) supported the motion and said that from the outset he is a fan of street furniture and cafés using public areas to that effect.
‘I personally believe the streetscape designed for Clonakilty improved the situation for buggy users as before that, we had very narrow footpaths. At the same time, though, it’s not perfect and what Cllr Hayes is looking for is very fair in calling for an assessment of all our streets. A policy like this would go a long way to getting a fairer balance.’
Council official Mac Dara Ó h-Icí said that it was an issue of balance between businesses and the right of accessibility.
‘I’m aware the tourism committee has looked at it and I suggest that where there are issues we should talk to the local chamber first and see what ground rules can be put in place or otherwise we go down the enforcement way,’ said Mr Ó h-Icí.
However, Cllr Hayes pointed out that a local access group, for example, contacted a business about such an issue and got no satisfaction.
‘It might work for a month but they will slip back into bad habits and I feel we need something more concrete that makes it clear what types of signs are allowed. We do need to have something there as a reference whether that’s in the Council office or somewhere else.’
He added that it is unfortunate that there are others out there who will go back to their old habits.
Mr Ó h-Icí said that the legislation is there, but that it would be better to engage with businesses first.
Cllr Hayes said that the issue should be addressed now before the commencement of the busy tourism season in West Cork.