Cork County Council could take legal action if business owners do not remove parklets at their own expense
A POTENTIAL row is brewing between business owners on Mallow’s Main Street and Cork County Council that could have ramifications for villages, towns and even cities across the country.
The issue revolves around a number of so called ‘parklets’ that were erected along the street outside some businesses under an agreement with the local authority to facilitate outdoor dining during the Covid pandemic.
Similar outdoor dining spaces had been erected outside businesses across the country.
However, Mallow now faces a particular problem given that the council has signed off on a scheme to resurface the road and footpath along the Main Street, which is due to commence on February 20.
In order to facilitate the works, business owners have been informed they must bear the cost of removing the parklets before the works start and re-erecting them afterwards should they choose to do so.
Raising the issue at the February Kanturk/Mallow district meeting Cllr Liam Madden (FG) said it was his understanding this could cost each business anywhere between €6,000 - €10,000.
“This is a big concern as no business can take that kind of cost. My fear is that a business might be forced to close down for good if they are landed with the cost of having to take down a parklet,” said Cllr Madden.
“I don’t know how we are going to get around this. Some common ground needs to be found on this issue,” he added.
With this in mind, Cllr James Kennedy (Lab) and other councillor asked if there was any way that the council help with the cost of taking down the parklets.
Senior roads engineer Dennis O’ Regan said the council officials had met with local business owners and understood their concerns about the parklets.
“We do appreciate the disturbance involved. However, one of the conditions in granting permission for the parklets was that they were temporary measures and that there would be a requirement that their removal would be at the expense of the individual business,” said Mr O ‘Regan.
“The council does not have the funding to pay for their removal or their reinstatement,” he added.
He pointed out that any delay in removing the parklets before the resurfacing works were due to start could have serious financial repercussions for the council.
“We have an agreed commencement date with the contractor of February 20. We do not want to change that date as we have cemented in good costings at 2022 pre-inflation rates,” said Mr O ‘Regan.
“Any delays in the contract will result in increased rates and a much higher cost for the resurfacing job,” he added.
Cllr Geraóid Murphy (FF) asked what would happen if businesses refused to remove the parklets by February 20, saying he is aware of at least one owner who had “no intention” of taking their one down.
In light of Mr O ’Regan’s comments, he suggested it would be more economical for the council to help with the cost of their removal to ensure they are taken down before the resurfacing works are due to commence.
“This would seem to make sense, given how much money is at stake should the council lose the advantageous rate locked-in with the contractor from last year,” said Cllr Murphy.
However, executive regional officer Sean O’Callaghan said the council’s position was very clear on the matter.
“As members are aware an agreement is in place with the businesses that have outdoor parklets/dining facilities that they may be required to move them at some point at their own expense. They signed up to this agreement on that basis,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
“As has already been stated we (Cork County Council) do not have the funding for their removal or replacement,” he added.
Responding to Cllr Murphy’s query about the possible repercussions for a business owner if they refused to remove one of the outdoor structures, Mr O’Callaghan intimated the council may be forced to take legal action.
“We will be talking to our own legal department as to what rights we have should we need to take action in that regard,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
“It is a matter for the business concerned to take them down. That is what they signed up for and they should haven been fully aware of their obligations in this regard. That’s is the council’s position,” he added.