Wednesday, July 22, 2020

This historic picture of a deserted Pearse Street in Ballina was taken on St Patrick’s Night last as Covid-19 restrictions led to a total lockdown of businesses. Picture: John O’Grady

by Orla Hearns

Ballina Municipal District councillors have declined to support a proposed trial pedestrianisation of the main street of the north Mayo capital despite a majority of occupants and traders (61%) indicating support for the initiative.

Last month councillors supported a proposal by independent Cllr Mark Duffy that a section of Pearse St in Ballina be pedestrianised at weekends during July and August on the basis that the council undertake further consultation with residents and traders.

A survey was distributed to approximately 54 Pearse St occupiers in the interim and the results were outlined to councillors at their July monthly meeting this morning.

Ballina Municipal District manager, Declan Turnbull said a total of 23 people responded to the survey which found that 6 respondents (26%) were in favour of full pedestrianisation of the street; 8 (35%) proposed partial pedestrianisation; 11 (48%) agreed with pedestrianisation from 12 noon on Saturdays to 8am on Mondays; 14 (a majority of 61%) agreed with pedestrianisation from 7pm on Saturdays to 8am on Mondays and 16 (70%) agreed with some pedestrianisation of the street.

With Ballina Chamber of Commerce and An Garda Siochana also indicating their support, Mr Turnbull recommended that the councillors approve a trial from Melvin’s Corner to the town centre junction from Saturday, August 1 to Monday, September 7 next, adding that some of the issues raised, including traffic congestion, can be dealt with along the way.

Cllrs Michael Loftus, Seamus Weir, Annie May Reape, John O’Hara and Jarlath Munnelly each expressed caution about proceeding with the trial, with several claiming to have received phone calls from Pearse St businesses who were adamantly opposed to it and others describing the proposal as “premature” given the impact of Covid-19 and traffic problems.

Cllr Reape proposed that the business operators be brought in to meet the councillors so that their true feelings can be gauged while Cllr O’Hara said sorting the town’s traffic issues must be the priority.

Cllr Munnelly agreed and, together with Cllr Seamus Weir, proposed that a proper traffic study of the town be carried out before trialling pedestrianisation

Cllr Duffy explained that the idea behind the trial is to evolve Pearse St into more of an amenity to help bring more people to town and boost trade.

Mr Turnbull said he was very disappointed by the councillors’ apparent wish to ignore the views of the majority in favour of a few, loud, negative voices that had contacted them by phone.

“We want progress but we do not want change. That is what it feels like to me,” Cllr Duffy remarked.

With no support for proceeding with the trial and no valid counter proposal the matter cannot be progressed any further.

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