Is this madness ?

Charleville town is in the Golden Vale, on a tributary of the River Maigue, near the border with County Limerick. It straddles the N20, and is the second-largest town between Limerick and Cork (Mallow being the largest). Significant industries in the town include Kerry Group plc and the construction and services sectors. It can only be described as a business and trading town, having little or no tourism. In fact many of the traders and businesses in Charleville were established many years ago and span several generations. It’s a lovely town to visit because of the shops and services that are so easy to access.
In Main Street there is a great variety of shops and cafes. Charleville could easily accommodate all one’s shopping needs, from buying a new car, booking a holiday or buying a head-to-toe outfit for a wedding, and the wedding gift, to doing the necessary grocery shop-ping. It’s rare nowadays that all the above can be achieved in one town. And the good news doesn’t stop there. Recently the town’s County Councillor, Ian Doyle, and his colleagues secured substantial funding for roadworks to be carried out on the town roads, specifically the N20.The announcement was warmly welcomed by all, traders and townspeople alike. “There are 15,000 trucks and cars going through Charleville town daily, so it’s very important that the N20 is maintained, in order for the businesses to survive, and in order for Charleville’s Main Street to survive. The roads and streets need to be upgraded,” Councillor Doyle says. The plan entailed works commen-cing on Main Street on 5th June. The businesses and traders were given notice, albeit not long before the job was to begin, but the general feeling was that everyone understood the importance of getting the job done and welcomed the news. It was to take four weeks. However, to the consternation of the traders, on the designated day when work was to begin on Main Street the job actually started on the Limerick road.
To get a perspective on the issue, it must be considered that contingency plans were in place for some of the businesses in Main Street. Some had offered early holiday time for staff, adjusted work rosters and made arrangements with distributors, to minimise the impact of the lessened trade in business that the roadworks would inevit-ably bring. All these efforts were in vain if the work was to continue on the Limerick road.
Meanwhile the Limerick road businesses, believing that work was due to start in four weeks or so, had no time to put contingency plans in place. Firms including car dealerships, the Charleville Park Hotel, Lidl and Lee’s Topaz petrol station would all be affected. Fergal O’Carroll of Deerpark Motors says that they themselves, only a short time before being given notice of the roadworks, had work done to their premises; if they had known about the impending job they would have waited and would have had their own work done during the time of the road resurfacing. “From our own point of view, this is the second busiest time of the year for us,” he said. “If they had started on Main Street, we’d have been through the busy time and it wouldn’t have the same impact on us. If there had been some consultation two months ago, we may have been able to make adjustments.” But Fergal is adamant that the traders do understand the importance of road maintenance. “We want the roadworks done. We know that the town needs it,” he said. “It is reasonable to assume that consultation between the local authority, the TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland is the state agency responsible for national road and public transport infrastructure) and the contractor would have been a priority and a prerequisite of the job. We can’t quantify how much business we’ll lose over the traffic delays, but it’s having an effect already.”
Another business that has suffered significant losses is the Topaz petrol station. This is one of two busi-nesses run by brothers Ray and Brendan Lee; they also run the Centra Supermarket in Main Street. The bro-thers understood that work was to begin on Main Street and had made plans for lessening the impact the works would have on the supermarket. The shop would be running as efficiently as possible with minimum staff as many of their staff planned holidays around the time of the road works. Although business would be slow, the brothers recognised the importance of the work. However, all their plans became redundant when they realised that to those involved in the planning, Main Street now became the Limerick road. “All communications in the public domain regarding road works here in Charleville related to the Main Street,” Ray says. “In our business on Main Street, we were prepared for the road works. We were told it would take place primarily by night.” However, when they realised on Tuesday that work had begun on the Limerick road, they were appalled to notice an immediate impact on their business, and that was even before the roadworks had reached the Topaz filling station. On Friday afternoon, after a very worrying few days, they met with the construction company and asked for a clear outline and timeframe of the works to be carried out. They were told that what had originally been a four-week plan had become a six-week time line and was further complicated by Irish Water, who had come on board because of leaking water mains. The brothers were given a further blow when a representative of the main contractor informed them that in the coming two weeks their business would be almost inaccessible.
Listening to Ray and Brendan talk of their business and their pride in their town was heartening. But the worry on their expressions was upsetting. They employ a staff of 72 in their two businesses, and it is obviously a close- knit partnership between staff and management. Yet Ray wanted to put it on record that they support the roadworks, they want the town to be the best it can be by maintaining good roads and infrastructure. But they are seriously concerned about their staff. “If we had been notified four to six weeks in advance of the works, we would have been prepared, we’d have contingency plans in place to lessen the impact of loss of trade and on the lives of our employees,” they stated.
Basically, it amounts to lack of communication, and lack of recognition of where the main street in Charleville actually is. Businesses on the Limerick road have requested that work be postponed in that area and shifted to Main Street where it was supposed to start – as soon as possible. This move would allow Limerick Road traders to prepare for forthcoming works and would have a lesser impact on the Main Street traders who, it seems, have been expecting the roadworks and are prepared for it. Surely it can be argued that it’s not a lot to ask. None of the parties involved wants to see an adverse impact on trade or jobs. At a meeting on Monday the request was put to the local authority. The traders and the townspeople are very hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.
In the meantime, Charle-ville is very definitely open for business. After spending the day there, I drove home with a car full of shopping and can only say that the time spent in the town was enjoyable, and I’ll definitely be heading back there, roadworks or no! The friendliness of the shop-keepers, and the delicious food served at lunchtime, were worth the wait of a few minutes at traffic lights

Update on the situation, Wednesday 10am:
Councillor Ian Doyle has received an email from council officials stating that the proposal to shift the works from the Limerick road to Main Street was unworkable as proposed by Councillor Doyle and the traders at a meeting on Monday night. The reason given was that, in conjunction with Irish Water and due to many water pipes already being upgraded, it would not be feasible to interrupt work in progress. One of Councillor Doyle’s biggest concerns is the possible employment interruption of staff at local businesses on the Limerick road. “That is my great concern,” he said. Councillor Doyle is familiar with the trading business, having been involved all his life. ” I’m talking to the engineer again this evening,” he said “and I’m continuously talking to Cork County Council. There’s no question about it, if I can solve this problem, I’ll do everything in my power to do it. If we can stop at the 300 metres, that’s what we’ll try to do.”
At the time of going to press, Lee’s Centra Group have confirmed that there will unfortunately be layoffs in their group.