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Matthews calls for better management of on street furniture to allow for greater accessibility

Date: 24 June 2021

Several initiatives announced by the Government in recent months have promoted an outdoor summer. This has included funding to improve public spaces, litter management and grant funding for restaurants and cafes to buy outdoor furniture. Some concerns have been raised about the management of this furniture, the blocking of paths and the knock-on impact for accessibility in our towns and villages. Green Party TD Steven Matthews has asked that local authorities take a more proactive approach to managing and enforcing the conditions for licensing of outdoor furniture to ensure that disability access and safe footpaths are maintained.

Discussing these concerns, Deputy Steven Matthews said:

“Better management of street and outdoor dining furniture is required to maintain accessibility for all. It’s great to see our streets alive again with outdoor dining and lots of seating but in some cases, it is causing a real impediment to pedestrians and especially those with mobility issues. The responsibility for issuing permission to place outdoor dining furniture and other objects on the public footpaths and the monitoring of compliance with the conditions of that licence lies with the Local Authority.

“When the Green Party first called for grants to support businesses in purchasing outdoor furniture and providing supports to local authorities to allocate space for an outdoor summer, we were very conscious of the impact that this could have on pedestrians and those with mobility or vision impairments. Street clutter in the form of excessive signage, advertisement-boards and utility boxes have always presented a problem for pedestrians. Even poorly placed planters and bins can be also problematic, and we highlight this issue every year on Make Way Day.

“The re-allocation of car spaces, pedestrianisation and provision of lots of street furniture this year are welcome additions to our towns and cities and has provided a huge boost for eligible businesses when they were able to recommence trading. While I completely support all these measures, these businesses and the local authorities must ensure they leave space for pedestrians. Tables and chairs can creep during a day’s use as diners arrive or leave or move to catch the sunshine and its firstly the responsibility of the business owner to manage this as they would any part of their premises.

“Where a problem persists, the Local Authority must step up and inspect and act at problem locations. I have asked the Minister for Planning and Local Government - Peter Burke to ensure that Local Authorities are reminded of their responsibilities and that they would engage with business to offer guidance on how much space must be maintained for safe pedestrian use. I’m happy to see that Dublin City Council have acted on this and have provided guidance and I’m calling on all Local Authorities to follow this example, concluded Deputy Matthews.

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