Cork City traders say Cook St has become a 'public toilet'

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Businesses on Cork City’s Cook St  say they have been “shafted” by City Hall, because ongoing construction works have made the street the “newest public toilet”.

Proprietors on Cook St have written to Cork City Council expressing their “deep dissatisfaction and anger” at works linked to the former Victoria Hotel.

In May, scaffolding and hoarding were erected on the north end of Cook St, as works were to commence to redevelop the former hotel into a four-storey retail unit.

John Grace, owner of John Grace’s Fried Chicken, said the hoarding had a negative impact on the street, as it protrudes out and blocks 75% of the walkway onto Cook St from St Patrick’s St.

“It’s an eyesore; it’s intimidating on the street,” Mr Grace said. “It makes it very claustrophobic down here, which does not help during the day, and at night it’s a cover for people using this place, literally, as a toilet.” 

He said the “icing on the cake” is that while Cook St has been shadowed by scaffolding, and traders struggled to get the council to make basic maintenance repairs to the street surface, Cork City Council launched its Reimagining Cork programme, investing millions into the pedestrianisation and upgrading of surrounding streets.

“Seeing what’s happened on the likes of Princes St and Pembroke St, this street has just been shafted,” Mr Grace said. “This is the bullseye on the dartboard of Cork City: We’re as central as you’ll get, and yet we’re the worst-treated street with the least footfall.”

The hoarding was originally to remain until September 11. The project has since been delayed because of a change in planning permission, with scaling-down of the development to a ground-floor retail unit, and the hoarding is now expected to remain until the end of February 2022.

Cook St business owners are despairing at the thought of a Christmas season with the hoarding in place. 

Tim Heelin, of the Denim Store, said the way traders on the street have been treated is “appalling”.

Scaffolding and hoarding at the former Victoria Hotel, Patrick St/Cook St, Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins

“We’ve made representations to the city council, but they don’t seem to care about us,” Mr Heelin said. “We at least want to see the hoarding taken down for Christmas time, or it’ll be appalling for business. This is having a huge effect on trade: Come 4pm in the dark evenings, there’s no one on the street.” 

In their letter to Cork City Council, Cook St traders said they are “increasingly bitter” about the way they are being treated, “in stark contrast to that of our neighbouring streets, where vast amounts have been spent and huge effort has been made to assist them in this difficult period”. 

They have said it would be “unacceptable” for the hoarding “to remain at its present size and imposition through the vital Christmas trading period”.

Cork City Council did not respond to a request for comment.