The proposed pedestrian access between Florence Road to the Florentine Centre has been met with grave concern by Sinn Féin councillors John Brady and Dermot Ó Brien.
Retailers on the Florence Road were informed by developers that the new centre will proceed without any pedestrian access onto the Florence Road.
Councillor Dermot Ó Brien said “We have spoken with traders and already they are reporting a severe impact on returns since work began on the site, however, the alarm bells started to ring when speculation arose about the apparent failure to resolve an access issue in terms of the pedestrian entrance within the original plans submitted by the council and approved by An Bord Pleanala.
“Oakmount are in the diving seat now as the council disposed of the site to them in March 2018. The traders were acutely aware that building works on the Florentine Centre would have an effect on them, they understand this, they are working within this reality but the resilience of these businesses through this challenging time was always anchored in the expectation that a pedestrian entrance on the Florence road into the Florentine Centre would represent a new era of flourishing for their business.”
Deputy Brady added “It’s unbelievable that a decision was taken to dispose of the Florentine site without having this critically important element of the project copper fastened. Serious questions need to be answered as to why that happened. Also serious questions need to be answered as to why the elected members of the council weren’t informed of this serious difficulty by the officials of the council before they voted to dispose of the site.
“Even though the pedestrian access to the Florentine Centre which was to be located beside Hayes Butchers on the Florence Road is included in the approved plans, I don’t believe the new owners of the site have the determination and drive to have the issue resolved.
“Since the closure of the Florence Road car park and commencement of work on the project, some retailers on the Florence Road have seen their business plummet by 20%. It’s essential that the council make a clear statement that they are committed to having a pedestrian access from the Florence Road and that they will take the lead in ensuring that it happens.”
Councillor O’Brien said “The key question here is whether the original access issue can be resolved and the work proceeds according to the plans or can an alternative option be explored such as a pedestrian pathway which can be aligned with the vehicle access to the centre from the Florence Road?
“I sincerely hope that we are not too late on this because the loss of these businesses to this town as a result of this scenario is unconscionable. Imagine not being able to walk onto the “Florence” Road from the “Florentine” Centre! Every effort must be made by the council to ensure that this isn’t the case.”