Council's fines and fees drive off local shoppers
In south Dublin, shops struggle to survive in the face of parking regimes that put off customers, writes Jerome Reilly
Relations between small businesses and a local authority have become so strained that one shop has covered a window in parking tickets in protest at the ultra-strict parking regime.
And another business which is quitting Dun Laoghaire, south Dublin, has also posted a condemnatory message about the council in its window -- blaming the local authority for its decision to leave the seaside port.
The civic protests come as a new survey found 60 vacant premises in and around Dun Laoghaire's main streets and 17 shuttered units in Dun Laoghaire shopping centre.
The latest shop to flee Dun Laoghaire is Imaginarium which specialises in educational toys for babies and toddlers. The business has two other outlets in Blanchardstown and Swords which are trading well -- despite the recession.
But joint owner Paul Noone said that it just became too hard to do business in Dun Laoghaire. They are hoping to move to another southside location away from a strict parking regime and a one-way system which infuriates many motorists and, according to Mr Noone, is a disincentive to shop in the area.
"I blame Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for the decision to move out. We could have survived the impact of the downturn, but there are too many problems to do business on George's Street," he said.
At Wine 64 in nearby Glasthule, the owners have decided to ask customers for their parking tickets which they are posting in their window -- a stark display of the difficulties faced by traders.
The store's manager Kevin Smith explained: "There are so many people enforcing the parking laws that it is hard not to believe that it is simply a revenue-raising issue for the council. The level of enforcement has frightened customers away," he said.
Mr Smith added that the limit of one hour's parking was a particular problem.
"What about a lady who wants to go to the hairdressers? Sometimes it may be a three-hour appointment. One hour is not enough for someone to come into Glasthule, have lunch and visit the shops. It's made visitors to the town anxious. We started asking customers for their parking tickets in a low-key way only about three weeks ago and we already have a window full. It just shows you the scale of the problem," he said.
The latest survey was commissioned to examine how the various traders in Dun Laoghaire perceive the economic and retailing environment, the services and facilities in the town, the impact of initiatives including festivals.
In all 69 traders responded to the survey which found:
• 43 per cent of traders reported a downward trend in business activity in 2011 compared with previous years.
• 40 per cent have reduced their staff numbers.
• 55 per cent have been hit by increased costs.
• 51 per cent had their rates valuation unchanged and 29 per cent of traders had their rates increased. Only 20 per cent had their rates decreased.
• 30 per cent of businesses expect a downward trend in business activity in 2012 and a further 15 per cent say they expect no change, giving a total of 45 per cent who expect no improvement.
But there is a real perception among retailers and other businesses of failed parking control in the area with 80 per cent considering the current tough regulation and enforcement as "bad".
Traffic management is perceived as a failure, with only 17 per cent considering it good. By contrast, Dun Laoghaire is considered to have good street lighting, street cleaning and water services.
More than 90 per cent of businesses expressed the view that parking charges are expensive.
Only 6 per cent considered that they were well-represented by their politicians.
Anne Joyce of Costello Flowers told the Sunday Independent: "We are getting no support from any of the politicians. No one gives a hoot.
"People who are living in the Pay and Display area are paying between €500 to €800 a year -- so the household charge is in the tuppenny place around here. There are so many shops closing in the town, that people are not even bothering to walk down the town now to do their weekly shopping.
"People are going to Stillorgan and Dundrum where there are no parking restrictions. You can go up do your shopping and leave your car for three hours for free. It's a different story here in Dun Laoghaire," she said.