People Lingering is the key to businesses thriving

Fermoy Street Festival

As the recent Fermoy Street festival highlighted, vibrant, attractive streets with less traffic promote social and recreational activities, because people walking become inspired to linger and enjoy their town.  And more people spending more time in the town can only be of benefit to local businesses in the long term.

The Fermoy Street Festival gave us a taste of what the town could look like with a little imagination. Fermoy and its streets functioned as a place for people to meet and greet each other, a place to listen to the town band, a place for children to play with their friends a place to take a seat and enjoy a cup of tea on the street. Plus add to that hidden buzz of being allowed to stand on the public road!!

Fermoy Street Festival

For a long time nothing much has happened with the public spaces in Fermoy. From one year to the next our footpaths have been repaved, or as happened recently widened a little, but despite the massive boom in private development, our public spaces have remained largely unchanged over recent years. It could be reasonably argued that due to the ever-increasing number of cars on our roads the status of the public spaces in our towns has been severely degraded.

We in Fermoy need to look at our town and imagine it not as it is, or has become, but as it could be.  There are many streets, lanes, squares and corners in our town.

Do they all have to function as car parks? 

We do not need to look to Europe to see positive change in action. When we go to Cork or Dublin, we will happily park our cars and walk the city streets for the day, especially in Cork where the newly paved spaces now hold farmers markets every weekend. Imagine it, a farmer’s market- on Patrick Street!! Our cities appear to have found a new role by offering people a pleasant environment in which to shop, meet people and to sit and enjoy their time. Patrick’s street, the Grand Parade and Emmet Place in Cork, O Connell Street and Temple Bar in Dublin, Eyre Square in Galway or the Milk Market in Limerick are all good examples of our cities reinventing themselves around the citizens.

In this way our towns too need to reinvent themselves, they need to signal come stop awhile, shop awhile, walk and stay as long as you like.  Our public spaces need to reflect this invitation with a new form and a new content. Create the environment and the people will use it, and the wonderful thing is Cork has proven this point already, it has done the hard work, and we just have to replicate it. The Irish have embraced this concept in cities and towns across the country so we know it works.

In 2006, Sligo pedestrianised its main street in spite of opposition from local businesses who felt traffic meant customers. However when the council sought to reverse its decision some years later due to residential pressure, 29 of the 30 businesses on O’Connell Street were now in favour of keeping it pedestrian! The economic benefits had swayed them, they had learned that people walking and lingering made business sense.

Our towns are slowly changing. Let us imagine how they may change for the better.

For further consultation on how you feel your town can be improved contact Cathal in Avondhu Blackwater Partnership on 025 33411.

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