Kieran Foley Reports
WATERFORD City & County Council has agreed to change a controversial traffic management plan for Winterval.
Proposals to close the Applemarket/John Street area to traffic from this Thursday, November 16th to Wednesday, January 3rd from 11am daily until 7am the following morning to accommodate Winterval had generated huge concerns and resulted in an emergency meeting taking place on Thursday last between representatives of local businesses and a number of Councillors to discuss concerns.
The issue was also raised at the November plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council which took place later that day.
Cllr Eddie Mulligan (FF), who raised the issue, said there was a feeling within the business community that they had not been sufficiently consulted in relation to the proposed road closures.
He pointed out the impact which this would have on businesses and residents in the area as well as the surrounding areas of Parnell Street, Johnstown, Newgate Street, New Street, and Mayor’s Walk.
Cllr Mulligan highlighted the impact which this would have on traffic flows and said people would avoid the area altogether.
“Perception is everything, and when work was taking place in the Apple Market the perception was out that the Apple Market and that area was closed,” he said.
Cllr Mulligan said there is now good footfall in the area.
However, he said the Waterford economy is still “very fragile” and called on the Council Executive to reconsider their proposal.
He pointed out that he grew up in the area and highlighted that it is a traditional drop off/pick up location.
“All the businesses welcome Winterval but want to retain the flow of traffic through the area,” he said.
Cllr Mulligan pointed out that the advertisement process for the receipt of submissions was not good enough.
“If it was properly advertised, there would have been many more submissions,” he said.
Cllr Adam Wyse (FF) supported Cllr Mulligan and sought a “common sense” approach.
“Businesses in the area need to be listened to,” he said.
He also called on the Council to put in place pedestrian crossings in the area and said businesses should not be allowed to have tables and chairs outside their premises until the area is closed to traffic each evening.
He said this would provide improved space for pedestrians, disabled people, those with buggies etc.
Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) also said the advertisement of the proposed closures was “not sufficient” and said the Council had “got it wrong” and should hold their hands up.
He also expressed concerns for elderly people and those with mobility issues who need to be dropped off in the area.
Director of Services Fergus Galvin said there had been both objections and support in relation to the proposal, although not in equal measure.
He said a number of businesses trading in the area have invested significantly in Christmas attractions and are supportive of the Council’s proposal.
Mr Galvin said these attractions would create footfall and benefit all businesses in the area.
After consulting with event organisers, he said the Council had agreed to push the applicable closure time on Saturdays and Sundays back to 4pm to facilitate the objectors.
“If it’s not working we will review it after the first week. That’s the position at the moment,” he said.
Cllr Jim Griffin (SF) then proposed that a group of Councillors meet with the Council Executive for ten minutes before the issuing of the Winterval Event Licence was discussed by Councillors.
This was seconded by Cllr Wyse and, following this meeting, Fergus Galvin said it had been decided to change the applicable closure time to 3pm each day.
Mr Galvin said this will be reviewed shortly after implementation to establish if it’s working.
Cllr Wyse thanked the Council Executive for the opportunity to meet and said a 3pm closure was “fair”.
Meanwhile, The Mall area will be closed to traffic from 4pm on both Saturday December 9th and Sunday, December 10th to accommodate a Spraoi production.
The Council had originally proposed to close the area from 5am on Saturday, December 9th until 11pm on Sunday, however a compromise was reached after businesses had raised concerns.