Green Party spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Steven Matthews TD has called on Wicklow County Council to consider allowing businesses including restaurants and cafés access to the public footpath in some areas of town centres free of charge this summer to help with social distancing.
Following trial runs in Dublin City Centre and elsewhere of making urban centres at least in part, car free, Deputy Matthews said, “First and foremost this is still a public health crisis and any new measures must be taken in light of medical advice. However, whenever businesses are able to begin to reopen, they will need as much support as possible to adapt to social distancing measures which will likely be a part of our lives till at least the end of the summer.
“We need to start examining possible solutions and one could be to make some streets in towns and villages across the county car-free during business hours this summer. This will allow sufficient access for pedestrians and cyclists but also give business owners and patrons enough space to operate safely. Any changes in the planning process would require significant examination of accessibility and safety but it is possible.
“We have seen the benefits that car free zones had in trials in different urban areas including increasing footfall and improved air quality. The additional requirement for more pedestrian space brought about by Covid-19 means that our local authorities need to act on this now, before lock-down measures are eased further.
“This wouldn’t need to be every street or even every town/ village in Wicklow but these are the sort of practical measures that local authorities need to consider in order to keep businesses going when lock-down measures are lifted but social distancing is still required.