Wexford District Council has voted to de-pedestrianise a section of the Main Street to allow disabled parking to continue in use all day on a side street, against the advice of officials.
The move came at a local authority meeting with councillors relaying complaints from business owners and drivers about the effective removal of disabled spaces in one-way Charlotte Street for much of the day, as a result of closing off access from Monck Street.
Fianna Fail councillor Garry Laffan said 90% of the representations made to him about recent traffic changes were in relation to Monck Street and Charlotte Street. 'It is not working. I think it has to be re-opened', he told the meeting.
Cllr. John Hegarty of Fine Gael said he understood the decision to close the section of Main Street had come from 'a good place' but it wasn't working and added: 'we are all of one voice on this issue'.
'I absolutely agree. I got a tongue-lashing over the Christmas time. One man I spoke, whose wife is disabled, to was incensed about it', said Cllr. David Hynes (Independent).
'He said we don't give a damn, we don't know what we are doing and we're only doing it to facilitate a business. I think we need to go back to what was there', said Cllr. Hynes.
Borough Engineer Sean Kavanagh said the disabled spaces in Charlotte Street are available up to 11.30 a.m. Monday to Thursday and earlier on a Friday outside the hours of pedestrianisation.
'They are not in full-time use and they do not meet any great standards either. We are talking about betterment here', he said, in a reference to complaints about the unsuitablity of two new disabled spaces in Selskar which councillors have asked to be removed.
Mayor of Wexford, Cllr. George Lawlor said he received a lot of complaints from people about the loss of the spaces in the area where there is a bank, post office and a pharmacy and opticians along with other shops.
Director of Services Tony Larkin said he is all in favour of looking after older and disabled people but this is a pedestrian area of the Main Street and traffic was being allowed in from side streets.
'You can say it's pedestrianised but we let cars come in. We have access up to 11.30 a.m. I'm not certain that it is the major issue that is being portrayed', he said.
'For the past 14 years, the law says it was closed but in practice it was open. The bye-laws are clear - that street is closed but it is being used by traffic', said Mr. Larkin.
Cllr. Lawlor said 'this has angered an awful lot of people. I've never seen so many submissions on a local issue like this.
'For 14 years, we have facilitated the use of these spaces and now we say we're changing it'.
Mr. Larkin said the reason it wasn't changed is because people were complaining about it.
'People have access up to 11.30 a.m. every day. I have observed personally cars coming up behind pedestrians and scooping them out of their way.
'I have to enforce the law. It can't be a little bit open and a little bit closed', he said.
Cllr. Laffan said all the submissions were about Charlotte Street.
'I think we should listen to the people. He proposed the erection of bollards to stop people parking outside the Ulster Bank.
Cllr. Hegarty said: 'I've seen a Town Plan not have as many submissions. I know it's been wrongly adhered to for 14 yers but to many people, this is like a new decision. We have to take account of the hundreds of people employed in these businesses. I think there is a strong feeling about this'.
Cllr. Laffan proposed leaving the spaces in use and was advised by District Manager Angela Laffan that this would require de-pedestrianising the Main Street.
'We are not de-pedestrianising the Main Street when the practice has been there for 14 years', said the Mayor.
He was informed by Mr. Larkin that the bylaws require that section of Main Street to be closed to traffic. 'The only way we can do it is to change the bylaw to allow traffic to drive on it', he said.
'What we are doing is to implement the law, otherwise you have to change the law to allow cars to drive from Monck Street onto the Main Street (and into Charlotte Street).'
'Let's not make this a political football. This is what the people of Wexford town want', said Cllr. Laffan. Cllr. Lawlor said the traders are paying rates and contributing to the economy of the town.
Cllr. Laffan formally proposed that the section of Main Street from Monck Street to Charlotte Street should be de-pedestrianisted and Cllr. Hynes seconded the motion which was passed unanimously. 'Can we ask the officials to bring in that proposal', asked the Mayor and Mr. Larkin replied that it would be addressed.