A new community and traders group held its first, tentative meeting at the Red Store on Tuesday last, February 22nd. The gathering was organised principally by florist Kaye Curtin and Boutique owner Lil Dann. As closure after closure afflicts shops on the main street, the area’s retail sector is facing considerable challenges and the meeting was called, “as a way of trying to spark new ideas and initiatives, however small or large,” explains Kaye.
Times Past - Youghal Traders pictured below from the 1970′s
Planning and pre-publicity was relatively restricted but the short timespan still allowed time for rumour and a degree of paranoia and even resentment to set in. Principally, the assumption grew that the gathering marked a ‘splinter’ group keen to break from the main frame that is the Chamber of Commerce. That a group –or even a pair- of individuals trying to help their own and other businesses to survive could be viewed with suspicion and negativity, perhaps fills its own chapter in the story of Youghal’s retail woes.
Tuesday’s ‘gathering did not constitute an elected or nominated team of officers, but the ’top table’ was populated for the occasion by Kay Curtin, Lil Dann, door and windows specialist Jimmy Flanagan with ,Dara Murphy of Read and Write, appropriately taking minutes! There was general acceptance in the room that the new group seeks to be inclusive across all community sectors, whether traders, clubs, other organisations or private individuals. In that sense, ‘traders’ could appropriately be defined as ‘trading in ideas.’ Some members of the Chamber of Commerce attended and contributed to the discussion, prior to attending their own meeting later the same night.
The meeting opened with Ms Curtin reading from a report on Youghal traders’ determination to support a vibrant Christmas in the town “despite the tide of pessimism that tends to permeate the land in these days of economic hardship.” It was written in 1976!! Mr Flanagan reflected that the difference between that recession and the current one is the complete absence of industry in Youghal nowadays. However, he reflected that the town still has a council, a Chamber of Commerce and many individual organisations working for the town. He called on sectors of local society to “start fighting back” on behalf of the town. “What we want to know is, how do we fight back?”, he asked.
Views, ideas, intentions
About 40 people occupied the room as ideas and observations regarding the Youghal economy were invited. The hour that followed saw voices from the floor focus on the following:
It was proposed that the community bus be utilised if possible, given the “extortionate” system of charging by the head as operated by the taxi services. It was related that families holidaying in the Quality Hotel for example, were avoiding visits to the town due to the cost of travelling by taxi. Holidaymakers in Ardmore were similarly deterred, it was claimed. If the community bus could not be utilised for such service, it was proposed that an approach be made to the taxi services for an alternative fare system. Michael Beecher of the Community Bus committee said that as far as he knew, the vehicle was available to any non-recreational group and he would look into it.
It was recommended that businesses remain open a little later at weekends, with evidence that some people travel to Cork for late shopping on Friday nights. It was felt the move would draw in consumers from surrounding regions and towns. As with the community bus issue, a few volunteers committed to pursuing the idea and local businesses are to be canvassed for their views.
Views differed. One man proposed that free parking persist outside the town centre, with €1.50 per hour imposed within, along with the first half hour free, to keep traffic moving. There were diverse views on this issue, including a completely opposite view that parking meters be removed completely from the street. Amidst a dearth of awareness as to the nature and implications of the imminent new car parking byelaws, the entire issue was designated to a few members in attendance to investigate and report to the next meeting.
It was reported that many people were keen to visit the town while awaiting their car tests and ideas were sought as to how they could be accommodated. The community bus was suggested as a possible solution.
Resident Population -Newsletter:
Youghal is “turning into a message town,” as far as residents on its immediate surrounds were concerned, according to one opinion. The speaker said that those residing in Cork Hill, Knockaverry and beyond were simply not deliberating downtown beyond pausing for basic necessities. He advocated half hour free parking to discourage such hurried visits. It was observed that during the icy weather, when driving was treacherous, main street traders were extremely busy. The proposer also suggested that a small, business newsletter be circulated advertising the attractions of shopping local.
The Clock Gate:
An argument was put forward that the Clock Gate should be promoted commercially, aesthetically and culturally as a major tourist attraction of Youghal, if not a town emblem in itself. Reference was made to the “30-40 tourists per day who photographing the iconic structure but are never incited to dwell in the vicinity nor permitted to see it from the inside. It was mooted that the unique building held enormous, untapped potential as a tourist attraction. There was a near total lack of knowledge as to what future is being planned for the Clock Gate. Michael Beecher, as town councillor, said plans were very advanced for the structure’s restoration and funding had been allocated for the project. An opening date on 2012 is anticipated and it is hoped to update the overall situation in the next edition of Youghal News.
There was unanimous criticism that the signs indicating Youghal at the Cork side entrance were pathetically inadequate. Lighted signage was promised, said one contributor and had not been delivered by Cork County Council. It was agreed to pursue this issue further.
The point was made that the students in Pobalscoil na Trionoide were geographically disassociated from the town centre, with considerable economic and even social consequences. The speaker said that students in Carrigaline spend an average of 1,000 students €6 each a day on lunches in the town. He urged greater ties between the town and the school through whatever means or methods available. Reference was made to a discount card scheme initiated with the school through the Chamber of Commerce and which was to be launched officially later that very night.
A chamber representative spoke of the need for larger, longer-term planning and investment from traders. The Chamber of Commerce had sent €50,000 on advertising in 2010, promoting a range of attractions. The Chamber also enabled members to acquire Christmas lights for at a 50% lower price than non-members, a point of information that flickered in debate for a little while also. The Chamber speaker elaborated that unity was essential and hoped the perception of a splinter group being formed would not take hold in the public domain. Mr. Flanagan stressed full agreement with this view. Ms. Curtain appealed for traders to obtain local radio membership for €12 per annum, before the meeting concluded in an air of amicability and some optimism.
The next meeting takes place at the Red Store on Thursday March 10th at 6pm. Inquiries (024)92634, business hours