Friday 24 May 2019

Lack of pedestrian access will 'destroy' local businesses, traders fear

Florence road retailers launch petition over Florentine access

Florence Road
Florence Road

Mary Fogarty

Retailers on the Florence road are concerned that their businesses will be destroyed by a lack of pedestrian access from Florence Road to the new Florentine Centre.

They have told Sinn Féin Cllr Dermot O'Brien and Deputy John Brady that they have already seen huge decreases in trade since works began.

'The plan was always to have pedestrian access,' said Aisling Dixon of Leonidas and Cool Beans Coffee House. 'I discovered this about three weeks ago. It had been noted in the minutes of the June district council meeting. We got together and decided that we need to approach the council. The building is flying on. If they can't do that area [for the access] can they do something else?'

She said that the traders were prepared to put up with a downturn in trade during the works, but with the hope of a recovery.

'There is less passing trade at the moment but we were expecting that. This was such a blow to discover. We've always had access on to this road,' she said.

Traders said that they have spend many thousands of euros in rates over the year and deserve better.

A petition on the counters of many of the Florence Road shops has gathered thousands of signatures since last Saturday.

Kirayan Vski works in the tech shop on Florence Road and said that he has to go part-time in the coming weeks due to reductions in footfall since works on the Florentine centre began.

'Closing access will destroy the businesses here,' he said. 'For the last two months it's more than 60 per cent down,' he said.

Mr Vski said that he has heard some jobs have been lost in nearby shops.

Hillary Salmon of Fleuritique said that she and co-owner Sally King are campaigning rigorously for a pedestrian exit.

'We all saw the plans with [pedestrian access] on it and were not informed that the plans had been changed. It's now completely off the plan.

'If we don't fight now, it'll end up that it will have gone too far and they won't be able to put one in, because they're pouring the foundation at the moment. As soon as we heard we all just rallied together. So we're just trying to put a united front to get them to listen to us.'

Members of Bray Municipal District discussed the issue at their June meeting, when Cllr John Ryan described it as a major mistake.

Cllr Pat Vance told members at that meeting that a landowner had told him verbally that he was fully supportive in terms of allowing access, but a legal advisor said later that his client had said 'nothing of the sort'.

'The walkway is not possible now, much to my regret,' said Cllr Vance at the meeting. He said that going further to pursue it would have delayed the whole project.

'We have spoken with traders and, already, they are reporting a severe impact on returns since work began on the site' said Cllr Dermot O'Brien.

The original plans submitted by the council had included a pedestrian entrance on Florence Road.

'The traders were acutely aware that building works on the Florentine Centre would have an effect on them, they understand this, they are working within this reality but the resilience of these businesses through this challenging time was always anchored in the expectation that a pedestrian entrance on the Florence Road into the Florentine Centre would represent a new era of flourishing for their businesses,' said Cllr O'Brien.

He said that the site should not have been disposed to the developers before this element of the project had been copper fastened.

The pedestrian access was to be located beside Hayes Butchers.

'The key question here is whether the original access issue can be resolved and the work proceeds according to the plans or can an alternative option be explored such as a pedestrian pathway which can be aligned with the vehicle access to the centre from the Florence Road?' said Cllr O'Brien.

Bray People