Gorey business owners’ concern over plans to cut Esmonde Street parking – ‘Why put up a barrier to retail?’
Owners of businesses along Gorey’s Esmonde Street have expressed their strong concerns and fears over the proposal to remove a large number of parking spaces in the Esmonde Street Regeneration plan.
At the April meeting of Gorey Kilmuckridge Municipal District Council, the members were given a detailed presentation of the Esmonde Street plan by Executive Engineer with Wexford County Council, Rory Curtis and Senior Engineer with Wexford County Council, Brian Galvin. During the presentation, it was noted that parking on the street would be reduced to 16 spaces to facilitate the introduction of a cycle lane on both sides of the street.
Stephen Redmond, who has owned Redmond’s Dry Cleaners since 1968, said that he believes taking away parking will “detract from business”.
"I am all for improving the street. It’s an eyesore. Look at the wires. Everything about it makes it an unattractive street yet it is meant to be a destination street. So let’s bury the wires, let's clean up the footpath, let’s do all that stuff. But to put in a cycle lane here and over there, it’s madness. If there was a cycle plan for the whole town, that would make sense,” he said.
People are going to get anxious when they’re visiting the town if they have nowhere to park. To me, it is a barrier to business
“We don’t need the bicycle lanes and we don’t need to take away our parking for the bicycle lanes.”
Mr Redmond said that, considering there is no dry cleaners in Enniscorthy and just one in Arklow, people travel from across Wexford and beyond to visit his business. Many of them are carrying heavy and bulky items and so, require parking nearby, he said. Taking away parking spaces on the street will serve as a “deterrent to business”, in his opinion.
"Why put up a barrier to retail by putting in something that creates a not so great feeling when people come to the town? People are going to get anxious when they’re visiting the town if they have nowhere to park. To me, it is a barrier to business,” he said. “Taking away the parking is going to put pressure on the main street as well. People are going to be driving around looking for car parking spaces.”
Mr Redmond said he believes that Esmonde Street is a “commercial street” and that the concerns of the business owners need to be taken into account when making a plan for its regeneration. He said that in the consultations regarding the Esmonde Street plan several years ago – which related to a slightly different plan when Wexford County Council envisioned having a higher budget – the issue of removing parking was never mentioned.
I have lots of mothers coming in with prams, grandparents shopping for their grandchildren... If they can’t get parking, they don’t shop here
“I don’t know what percentage of my business will drop if parking is taken away but I do think business will suffer and it will create a bad feeling among shoppers who come to the town.”
While the loss of parking is his primary concern, Mr Redmond also said he is concerned about the safety of the proposed cycling lane, saying that an accident is bound to happen.
Owner of Jalanda children’s clothing store, Margarita Whitty said that she is “very disappointed” at the fact that none of the business owners were consulted about the plan beforehand.
"This is a big thing because we are the retailers on the street,” she said.
Ms Whitty said that the decision will to remove parking would make “a big difference” to her business.
"I have lots of mothers coming in with prams, grandparents shopping for their grandchildren. That is my demographic. If they can’t get parking, they don’t shop here,” she said. "If you have to park at the railway station and you have a buggy and two children, you’re not going to come here. You will go elsewhere.”
As it stands, some customers double park in order to reach Jalanda, while others have informed her that they decided against shopping there due to a lack of parking.
“If they are doing that now, what will it be like when parking is removed?”
"We’d have customers from Tinahely, Carnew, Craanford, Wicklow, Wexford, all over. But we also get a lot of walk-ins. We need people to walk by our window. That’s what it is all about. It is hard enough at the moment,” she added, saying that they get a lot of “spin-off” business from those visiting the town for other reasons.
Once there is parking, we're happy. That’s the big thing. We need customers. It’s hard enough
Ms Whitty stressed that she has no objection to the plan to revive the street and improve it visually.
"Do it up, do the path and make it look lovely. If they want a cycle lane, put it on the cycle lane or something. Once there is parking, we're happy. That’s the big thing. We need customers. It’s hard enough.”
While Claire O’Connell from the Gaslamp Gallery stressed that she is “totally in favour of progress”, she said she would question the decision to remove parking from the commercial street.
"We rely on having parking because we’re carrying big items out to customers and trying to bring very big items in. Sometimes we could have 30 or 40 pictures going out in one go. Where do people park, do they stop in the middle of the road?” she said.
"I am totally in favour of progress but would be very fearful if they removed the parking.”
Ms O’Connell said that many people park on Esmonde Street to reach Gorey Main Street and reiterated points made by her neighbours that it will have a knock-on effect for the whole town.
"It doesn’t just affect us, it affects the whole town.”
They say it constantly, constantly. And in the summer, continuously. So many people say ‘we were meant to come in and we couldn’t get parked’
While she reiterated that she is in favour of progress, Ms O’ Connell said that she “constantly” receives comments from customers “every week” who say that they were unable to find parking nearby.
"They say it constantly, constantly. And in the summer, continuously. So many people say ‘we were meant to come in and we couldn’t get parked,’” she said.
"I just don’t understand the logic.”
Aine Breen, who owns the recently-opened Lu&Mol jewellery shop on Esmonde Street said that, while she is new to the area, she is not in favour of removing parking on the street.
“I wouldn’t be in favour of this because I see a lot of people parking outside and coming in. It would be a pity to see it gone because it is so busy here, particularly on a Saturday and Sunday,” she said.
While Ms Breen said she did wish to see the footpath cleaned up, she said that Gorey is a destination town and those who travel to Esmonde Street need parking if they wish to shop there.
Conor Murphy, who owns All About Feet, said that, as far as he can see, the street is a “disgrace” and needs to be cleaned.
"It is the dirtiest street in the town. You have cigarette butts, dog poo that’s just left there for months. It’s as dirty,” he said.
"It has been like this since I came in 2017. It’s a disgrace. If people are being paid to clean, they need to clean it.”
In relation to parking spaces, Mr Murphy said that he believes it is “totally ludicrous” to put in two cycle lanes.
"There is never enough parking space as it is,” he said.
"I have a lot of older people, infirm people and people with diabetes coming into me and there is currently no wheelchair-accessible parking on the street. If they ring me, I often have to tell them to double park outside,” explained Mr Murphy, giving a nod to an elderly woman as she entered the store with a walker.
"We need more wheelchair-accessible parking in the town and the most logical place is between here and Crowes.”
Parking is more important than cycle lanes… Parking is the lifeblood of the town and part of my businesses
Mr Murphy said that Esmonde Street is in dire need of a clean and he is in favour of fixing the footpaths and burying the cables.
Despite being in the bicycle business, Martin Conroy of Gorey Cycle Centre said that he is not in favour of installing cycle lanes if it means doing away with parking. He said he has expressed his views to the Council engineers in the past.
"Parking is more important than cycle lanes, and there is no other cycle lane for this to join up to,” he said. “Parking is the lifeblood of the town and part of my businesses.”
Councillor Joe Sullivan said that he has been speaking with some of the business owners on Esmonde Street and, on hearing their concerns, supports their calls to look at the plan again.
“They have done a lot of work there in relation to their businesses and have actually built a brand over the last 30 years. They believe, and I would have to accept their belief, that if parking was essentially taken out of Esmonde Street, it would impact heavily on their business,” he said.
“I do think that the upgrade to the street needs to be done, that we do need to get certain works done but we don’t need to hit the nuclear button. I don’t want to do anything to impinge on their ability to do their business.
If the will of the people and strength of that will is enough, I think we need to listen to them. It’s their livelihoods, not ours.”
District Manager Philip Knight said that he had not personally been contacted regarding concerns and said there are no plans to have another public consultation. However, he said he is happy to meet with business owners for a discussion if they wish.
We are listening to the needs and trying to respond but at the same time, we would like Esmonde Street to have the same quality of the streetscape as The Avenue
"I’m happy to meet with business owners and go through their concerns. I do appreciate that removing parking from Esmonde may be problematic but the flipside is that, I was driving up the street the other day and had a look, and there were 11 empty spaces during the middle of the day. There doesn’t seem to be difficulty with parking during the day,” he said.
Mr Knight referenced the previous Council meeting, saying that the councillors fed back many of the concerns of the business community during this meeting.
“When the detailed plans are drafted, they will be presented to the members again and there will be an opportunity for the councillors to comment at that stage as well,” he said.
“We are listening to the needs and trying to respond but at the same time, we would like Esmonde Street to have the same quality of the streetscape as The Avenue.”