‘It is aw­ful to see: No­body on the road or in the shop’

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - NEWS - By KATH­LEEN O’SUL­LI­VAN

IT’S not a sen­ti­ment you hear at the cash reg­is­ter ev­ery day.

But in thank­ing a cus­tomer for not just their busi­ness on one par­tic­u­lar af­ter­noon last week but for their sup­port in gen­eral, Philip Ho­ran’s deep grat­i­tude re­vealed much about the im­pact of the N23 road clo­sure on trade in Castleis­land.

The owner of XL Ho­ran’s on the Kil­lar­ney Road has watched as traf­fic at his or­di­nar­ily thriv­ing fore­court slowed to a trickle fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the N23 road be­tween Castleis­land and Far­ran­fore - in a scheme that got un­der­way in May with an end-of-Au­gust es­ti­mated time of com­ple­tion.

Busi­nesses on the Kil­lar­ney Road end of the town ap­pear par­tic­u­larly hard hit and traders there are deeply frus­trated at los­ing busi­ness at their busiest time of the year in what is a bumper sum­mer for tourism.

Philip said his busi­ness has been ex­tremely quiet since the clo­sure: “It is ab­so­lutely aw­ful; there is no foot­fall. There has been no traf­fic what­so­ever since con­struc­tion be­gan.

“We usu­ally have a lot of peo­ple com­ing from Far­ran­fore and Cur­row, but not any more. Drivers of busi­ness ve­hi­cles com­ing from Kil­lar­ney through Far­ran­fore in the morn­ings come here for diesel, but it takes them 25 min­utes ex­tra to come out to me now due to the clo­sure. They can’t con­tinue to take a route that long, so I will lose them as cus­tomers.

“In a town like this, it is essen­tial to shop lo­cal. If every­one did, it would work out, but peo­ple can’t re­ally do that now. We’re lit­er­ally talk­ing about a bridge over a stream that’s caus­ing this; it shouldn’t be the way.

“The busi­nesses in this town are a vi­tal part of it. It was en­sured that the fish were looked after by not do­ing the con­struc­tion dur­ing Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and March, and health and safety was looked after; ev­ery­thing was taken into con­sid­er­a­tion ex­cept the ef­fects on busi­nesses in the area,” he claimed.

“Long-term, there is a big dan­ger re­gard­ing sur­vival. When you lose cus­tomers, you will al­ways won­der if you can get them back.”

Philip em­pha­sised how “grateful we are to loyal cus­tomers, as they are all that is keep­ing us go­ing, but los­ing the busi­ness from tourists dur­ing this time of year is some­thing you don’t re­cover from.

“When I was young, we could put down goal­posts and kick ball in the mid­dle of the road. We could do that now on the road out­side, it’s that quiet.

“There is no­body on the road, and there is no one here in the shop. It is just aw­ful to see.”

Neigh­bour­ing busi­ness Cas­tle Light­ing and In­te­ri­ors owner Shirley Higgins is also very un­happy with the sit­u­a­tion and feels that the neg­a­tive ef­fect is caus­ing the work to be seen as more has­sle than it is worth.

“We’re not de­pend­ing on lo­cals for busi­ness, so we’re re­ally los­ing out from peo­ple not pass­ing through and stop­ping. Peo­ple are avoid­ing Castleis­land and go­ing to Tralee in­stead.”

She feels the end-re­sult of the con­struc­tion is not worth it as they’ve lost out on busi­ness dur­ing very im­por­tant months.

“We can’t do any more pro­mo­tion for the shop on so­cial me­dia or any­thing – it costs too much, so we can’t do it while we’re los­ing busi­ness.”

Castleis­land Cham­ber Al­liance PRO Jeremy Burke feels the tim­ing could have been much bet­ter, but be­lieves the road works are nec­es­sary.

“We were late get­ting the no­tice about the works. We’ve been in con­tact but there is not a huge pile we can do about it,” he claimed.

“It is an un­for­tu­nate stretch of time dur­ing a peak, but it’s a job that needs to be done.

“The Road De­sign Of­fice chose this time, as ear­lier in the year was not suit­able.

“In terms of busi­ness be­ing lost, it is hard to tell the im­pact this is hav­ing, but there is no doubt it prob­a­bly is hav­ing an ef­fect. The town is still ac­ces­si­ble, although the di­ver­sions are not ideal.

“We don’t have a choice but to let it hap­pen; at least they’re on sched­ule with the con­struc­tion.”

His ad­vice for those who are wor­ried about their busi­ness is to con­tinue get­ting their name out there, adding:

“Hope­fully the works can be done in a shorter time-frame than planned”. He feels that the busi­nesses in the area are strong and will con­tinue to thrive.

Kerry County Coun­cil­lor Bobby O’Con­nell said that all in­volved in the works are happy with the pace of the con­struc­tion and that the weather has had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on this progress.

His main con­cern if for both res­i­dents of the area and the busi­nesses in Castleis­land.

He said that the “pres­sure will be kept on to get the job done as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

A spokesper­son for the Kerry Na­tional Road De­sign Of­fice mean­while said the scheme is on sched­ule and they hope to con­tinue with this pace, weather per­mit­ting.

The N23 Castleis­land to Far­ran­fore road is closed from traf­fic since May 24 un­til Au­gust 2018 to fa­cil­i­tate the re­build­ing of Dy­sert Bridge.

Philip Ho­ran of XL Ho­ran’son the Kil­lar­ney Road in Castleis­land wait­ing for cus­tomers. He said his busi­ness has been badly hit since the Far­ran­fore road closed down for the three-month resur­fac­ing scheme that is cur­rently un­der­way.

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