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Malahide New Street project divides councillors and locals

Fingal County Council has spent over €60,000 on pedestrianising New Street, Malahide, it has been revealed.

The controversial project, which is being opposed by some local residents and businesses, began last summer with the local authority saying it “will bring an open air, European-style feel to the heart of the village.”

As part of the initiative, cars were not permitted to drive through or park on New Street and were diverted to other routes.

A trial scheme is now being implemented where vehicles can travel one-way down New Street from the Main Street junction.

In response to a question tabled by Aoibhinn Tormey, Fine Gael councillor for Howth-Malahide, it was revealed that the council has spent €61,356 since works began.

This figure includes the installation of an air-quality monitor, small and large planters, the hiring of stewards, and “emergency works” – which are not specified.

Save Malahide Village, a group consisting of local residents and businesses which are campaigning for the de-pedestrianisation of the street says that they did not get a “legal notice from Fingal County Council to pedestrianise New Street.”

The group says that businesses in Malahide have been badly affected by the project while some on New Street gained an unfair advantage receiving additional street furniture. Malahide has “over 35 cafes, restaurants and pubs,” the group says in its leaflet.

“Sadly, almost all of these have been badly affected by the pedestrianisation project.

“As they struggle to deal with Covid, they were suddenly forced to deal with unfair competition from those few businesses on New Street who were given places for dozens of tables and chairs – all free of rent or rates.”

Councillor Tormey says that she has “disagreed” with the decision to pedestrianise New Street “from the beginning,” but “in practice the detrimental effect has been much greater than I anticipated.”

Tormey says that anti-social behaviour has risen with the pedestrianisation, along with noise pollution, disruption to local businesses and service providers, and the risk of spread of Covid-19 due to “congregation of large numbers of people in the area.”

Wooden benches that were installed last year on the street have since been removed by Gardai and county council workers to comply with level five restrictions. The move was campaigned for by Save Malahide Village.

Independent councillor for the area, Jimmy Guerin says that originally he “was opposed” to the project but after public consultations and council meetings he is now in favour of the pedestrianisation.

“I think it’s good for the area, and it’s good for Malahide,” he says.

“There have been numerous meetings and it has gone through the process.

“We’re now at a trial period where the street is one-way but that will go to public consultation soon.”

Guerin says that one of the options is for the street to become a one-way access point for vehicles for around seven months of the year while it would be fully pedestrianised for the summer months.

“New Street had problems when Covid struck,” says Guerin.

“It has very tight paths so it was forcing people on to the road when groups of people were walking towards to you.”

The pedestrianisation has allowed more people to walk safely down New Street, says Guerin.

He says that it’s sometimes “hard to go about change,” when asked about opposition to the scheme.

“Some businesses will be negatively impacted, and some traffic has been diverted but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

“I’ve received some mail which are against the project but gotten a huge amount of mail for it,” he says. “It’s a good thing for the village.”

In a statement to Northside People, Fingal County Council said that under the new one-way trial arrangement, “extra space has been dedicated for public use between the carriageway and the footpath to improve social distancing while also maximising the area outside business premises that can utilize the space for outdoor dining in a safe manner in accordance with the guidance set out in the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19.

“On-street parking on New Street has been replaced by the public realm areas for people and businesses to utilise in the absence of parked cars, now facilitated in the Bridgefield Car Park.”

The council says a public consultation on the project “will take place in due course.”

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