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Business owners divided over Capel Street pedestrianisation today

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, addressed some of the fears business owners on the street may have.

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, cutting a ribbon on Capel Street
Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, cutting a ribbon on Capel Street

Updated May 20th 2022, 11:45 AM

DUBLIN’S CAPEL STREET has been permanently pedestrianised today, making it the longest traffic free street in the city.

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, officially launched the pedestrianisation at 11.15 this morning.

Measures were put in place by Dublin City Council last summer for temporary pedestrianisation of both Capel Street and Parliament Street to allow outdoor dining.

The change was trialled on weekend evenings for 17 weeks and following a public consultation 91% of the 1,766 submissions received were in favour of the proposal.

Among the general public 97% were in favour of the pedestrianisation.

Shop owners on the street had mixed opinions when The Journal spoke to them today, however.

John Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Car Accessories, was wary of the change.

His shop has been run by the Mitchell family since 1890, and has a lease extending to 2048.

“I think most of the street agreed with the temporary pedestrianisation in the summer but they don’t really want it permanent. The public houses and restaurants do most of their trade on the weekend, the rest of us do most of our business between 9am and 5pm during the week. So making it traffic free all week doesn’t benefit any of us very much.”

“I think sales will drop, they dropped during the pandemic and now they probably won’t recover. If someone has a problem with their windscreen wiper they won’t be able to pull up outside. I think it’ll be a disaster for business,” he told The Journal.

The 1916 Proclamation was planned to be printed at the shop when the Mitchell’s ran a printers from the premises but the idea was abandoned when the company didn’t have the desired typeface.

Speaking at the launch, Gilliland addressed the worries that retailers like Mitchell have about the initiative.

“I think if customers really want to go to a shop they have the Jervis car park nearby. Accommodations can be made. This is about collaborating with businesses. We want this to be a success as much as they do,” she said, after a ribbon cutting on the north side of Capel Street.

“If people are walking past your shop rather than driving past there’s a greater likelihood that they’ll stop in and make a purchase.

“It’s a very distinct street because we have retail, hospitality and offices here. When tourist season gets up and going especially we anticipate this will be a very vibrant part of the city,” Gilliland added.

Emily Smart, who works in Camerino Bakery, supported the move.

“I think there will be a lot more footfall, especially on the weekends because people will view it as a walkable place. If they make the seating cheaper I think we’ll put more seats outside. It would be nice if all of us did that, maybe they’ll make the license for that cheaper to encourage it.”

Some works were carried out last night to facilitate the move and leaflets have been  distributed to advise residents and businesses.

Car parking on Capel Street will also be ended and parking spaces will become loading bays for the businesses.

Delivery vehicles will still be permitted daily from 6am to 11am, after which bollards will prevent entry.

Improved seating will also be implemented and traffic management staff will be on site for the first two weeks while road users grow accustomed to the change.

Michael Burns, who runs Goodwill Thriftshop, was unhappy with the decision, saying that access to shops will be severely reduced.

“You have five charity shops on the street, all of which depend on people dropping by and leaving in donations from their cars. Can you expect an elderly lady to drive to Jervis Centre and walk over with boxes of books? Not going to happen.

A lot of the people who have been here for 30 or 40 years are against it.”

The owner of Soho Dublin, an adult entertainment shop, felt as though the decision was made with a bias towards certain kinds of businesses.

“I now have a loading bay outside the shop where a parking space used to be and I don’t even need to use it. The pubs and restaurants get all the benefit of the extra space for street furniture.”

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The lack of cars and parking spaces means that a significant portion of his customers who “park up late in the evening and run in quickly” will disappear, he said.

Despite this he feels as though his trade will increase because of the added footfall, as it did during the summer trial period.

Speaking yesterday, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said he was “thrilled” that the move was going ahead.

“I’ve been involved in transport campaigning and traffic management of the city for 30 plus years and at every stage I remember when we changed the rule at the bottom of George’s Street. I remember people saying at the time ‘this will gridlock everything’,” he stated.

Ryan compared Capel Street to the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street and Henry Street, saying:

“Every single time we pedestrianised or improved the conditions for pedestrians in the city people were fearful that it would do real harm. We’ve never reversed one of those decisions. We’ve never regretted increased pedestrianisation.”

“It really does create an urban environment that’s good for people, it’s good for the city. It’s more effective and more efficient. This is the way ahead,” he added.

There will be some traffic permitted, at the Luas line where Capel Street and Abbey Street intersect.

Approval

Local councillors met late last month to approve the decision and the official date was announced on 5 May.

The council noted that during the consultation process, 53 identical submissions were received from businesses, mainly in the nearby Jervis Shopping Centre, objecting on the basis it would have a “detrimental effect on our business”.

The council have also said that the pedestrianisation of the street will be monitored for the first several months of operation and a report will be created in September to assess the scheme and to examine whether changes are needed.

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