Malahide Businesses & Residents Rail Against Pedestrianisation

July 13, 2020 0

Fingal County Council has run up against vocal opposition to the pedestrianisation of New Street, Malahide. Three weeks into the pilot project, which sees one of the town’s main commercial streets closed to motorised vehicles, local businesses and residents have started a campaign to highlight their strong objections to the council’s actions and the one -sided nature of the public narrative.

The “Save Malahide Village” campaign has over forty local businesses and many houses in the area displaying distinctive red and yellow posters in their windows in support. This is complemented by a social media campaign that has attracted much local interest. The objective of the campaign is to increase visibility of their concerns and have the street re-opened immediately with a view to having a full public consultation about the plans.

Local businesses, including advocacy group Shop Malahide, and frustrated residents in the vicinity decided to take action as they felt the council was neither seeking or listening to their feedback. The pedestrianisation had been mooted as part of the “Walk Bike Fingal” scheme to facilitate social distancing. However, residents and businesses were not adequately consulted or notified of the proposals, resulting in significant discontent. At the core of the concerns are traffic flow, access to the seaside village, and the timing of this trial.

Áine McCabe, local pharmacist and Shop Malahide co-founder explained

The pedestrianisation of New Street has a wider effect than simply closing a road for people to walk on. It impacts on traffic flow around the village, public order, and business. Parking, while a peripheral issue, is also a concern. The narrative put forward by Fingal County Council didn’t acknowledge that there had been inadequate public consultation and gave the impression that the change was being universally welcomed. We have very real concerns that need to be heard and so decided to challenge that narrative. We are not against change, we just want the right change, for our village.

Áine continued

Our campaign could be misrepresented as being anti-cycling or anti-walking. That could not be further from the truth. We very much welcome the visitors and residents who cycle and walk to the village and the custom they bring. We believe there is a balance to be struck between facilitating the needs of cyclists and ensuring that traffic flows easily.

Trish Murtagh, a local independent retailer and Shop Malahide co-founder, outlined

Shop Malahide has engaged with Fingal County Council to highlight the concerns that local businesses have. In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, when many businesses are struggling to keep trading, it seems irresponsible and highly insensitive to introduce a measure like this. Having a trial in these uncertain times and very difficult circumstances can give an understated or false impression of what the effects of this change will be. Also – between the bouncers, the signage, the provision of tables and chairs, the council has clearly spent a lot time, effort, and money trying to implement this ‘temporary’ measure and, as a business owner and rate payer in the town for twenty-seven years, I seriously question if that represents value for money.

Trish added

We have proposed alternatives to full pedestrianisation that would also facilitate social distancing, but the attitude of the Council appears to be that it is “their way” or “no way”. They have said they will ‘tweak’ the scheme as required over the pilot, but that the street will be closed to traffic for the full ten weeks and possibly longer. We believe there are other options available, like leaving the street open and removing parking for wider paths, creating a single lane one-way street, and/or closing the street for periods on weekends. Despite being able to facilitate social distancing, these have effectively been dismissed out of hand. In any case, the wider public should be consulted.

Residents of the area also expressed their concerns at the impact the pedestrianisation was having on their quality of life, in particular primarily residential Old Street.

James T. Doyle, community activist and resident, said

From a resident’s point of view, Old Street has now effectively become a main thoroughfare of the village with practically no notice. Many on the street are older people who were totally unaware that neighbouring New Street was closing. The timing of this during lockdown also smacks of opportunism, bearing in mind many of these people were actually cocooning at the time, and were blissfully ignorant as to what was going on right before their noses. We now have considerably more traffic, including buses and goods vehicles coming own our road and have lost residents’ parking as a result. It is very disappointing that the Malahide-based county councillors Eoghan O’Brien and Anthony Lavin are in favour of continuing this project.