REPRESENTATIVES from towns across West Cork have welcomed the Town Team meetings that are being held to support businesses and communities as they slowly begin to emerge from Covid-19 restrictions.
Established by Cork County Council under their ‘Project ACT’, each Town Team consists of local elected representatives, business people, traders, community leaders and representatives of the Cork County Older Person’s Council, amongst others.
While it is still early days, momentum has already gathered as town stakeholders work together in a co-ordinated and collaborative community-led approach.
Kevin O’Regan of Fuschia Footwear in Clonakilty and Skibbereen, attended the first Town Team meeting in Clonakilty in recent weeks.
‘I certainly welcome it and it was encouraging as there were a lot of stakeholders of the town there, all with the common interest of making sure Clonakilty can come out of this,’ Kevin told The Southern Star.
‘Hopefully some good ideas will come out of it and as long as we can get some action, then that’s where the benefit will come from.’
Bantry business owner and chair of the Bantry Business Association, Diarmuid Murphy, of the town’s Fish Kitchen restaurant, said that social distancing is the main barrier for many businesses hoping to get back up and running.
‘We were asked to come up with ideas and suggestions for what we believed needed to be done around the town to help facilitate the re-opening of Bantry,’ said Diarmuid.
‘If social distancing though goes to 1m, then some businesses will be able to re-open but it’s difficult for others like me.
‘A lot of places are talking about queuing systems and spaces outside and the big push is to get the town open.’
Business owners also carried out their own surveys and an eight-page document has now been put together for the Council.
‘I think at this stage people need some level of reward as they have been doing what they were told to do,’ said Mr Murphy.
He added that retailers in the town need to get a ‘summer under their belt of some description’ and be allowed to do that by careful management, and not over-management.
‘A lot of businesses won’t survive the winter unless they get a good summer,’ he warned.
Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) who attended two ‘virtual’ Town Team meetings in both Bandon and Kinsale last week, said that these meetings are primarily focussed on the retail side of things.
‘It’s about trying to make the towns comfortable and attractive for people to come back into the town. Examples of this will be the proposed closing of Bridge Lane in Bandon – which links St Patrick’s Quay to South Main Street – to facilitate pedestrianisation and the public will be able to have their say on this. They are looking at a number of options in Kinsale, too, which all will be going to public consultation,’ said Cllr Coleman.
‘There will also be some removal of car parking spaces in both towns to allow businesses to re-open with social distancing.’
He also said that Bandon ‘needs a few fast wins’ and called for the Council to invest money in beautifying St Patrick’s Quay with planting and flowers to get it looking well, as it’s the main artery through town.
‘It’s something that can be done very quickly and is relatively low cost and it will have an immediate brightening effect on the town.’
Meanwhile, as towns across the county prepare to re-open, the Cork County Older People’s Council is asking the wider population, communities and business generally to be alert to the needs of older people.
Each Town Team is to consider the Council’s new ‘Care’ (consider, assist, respect and empathise) guidelines which have been prepared.
‘There will be a natural anxiety amongst this more vulnerable group, and we are asking everyone across society to be conscious of this as our towns re-open,’ said Liz Maddox, chairperson of the Cork County Older People’s Council.
‘What we are asking is that people be considerate, assist where they can, respect social distancing and empathise with those who feel vulnerable.’