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Lack Of Progress On Town Enhancement "A Disaster"

21st July 2017

Camilla McLoughln

THE lack of progress on the town enhancement programme could put the entire project in jeopardy believes Cllr Tommy McKeigue.

Funding of €3m from the European Regional Development Fund must be used by the end of 2018 or it could be withdrawn. However, it now looks unlikely that work will begin this year.

At last Thursday's Municipal District meeting, there was no further update on the project and a second workshop for councillors was proposed for August by Town Manager, Mr Sean Murray. A similar workshop was held in June between councillors and the design team.

If an agreement is reached in August, then it will go before the September meeting of the Municipal District for approval. This will be followed by a period of public consultation.

''This is a disaster'', stressed Cllr Tommy McKeigue, ''it will take another three months to go out to tender. We lost an awful lot of time.''

Speaking after the meeting, the Fine Gael councillor said each aspect of the work will probably have be tendered for separately. Proposals include the erection of a bridge over the river linking Main Street and the Bridge Centre car park, the undergrounding of wires, widening of footpaths and the cause of all the delay, the pedestrianisation of O'Connor Square.

''The whole thing is gone out of kilter. There has to be compromise, it's just a mess. Construction costs are going up too. I'm very disappointed, the streets of the town are like a ploughed field. The town is looking very well but the footpaths and streets need to be done,'' said cllr Mckeigue

''It's not fair on the tax payers and rate payers. It's not their fault. I feel we have let them down. We are the only town . . . Birr is done, Edenderry has started, they had problems with the plan for the square too but they reached an agreement,'' he said.

It was in August 2015 when members of the public were first asked for their opinions on a set of proposals for the town centre and they enthusiastically responded with ideas and comments.

Kenny Lyons and Park Hood Architects were appointed to draw up a set of designs which again went out for public consultation in 2016.

There were four proposals put forward for O'Connor square, these were rejected by traders in the O'Connor Square/Tanyard area of the town, who objected to the significant reduction in car parking spaces in the square and in a joint submission said they wanted no less than 40 car parking spaces. With the exception of councillors Tommy McKeigue and Brendan Killeavy, members agreed and pushed for a new design.

The architects came up with further plans, this time to include 26 car parking spaces. This was accepted by councillors Tommy McKeigue and Brendan Killeavy, but rejected by the rest who voted 5-2 in favour of a brand new design.

In the meantime a group called Portumna Investments said they were planning to open a 90 space car-park to the rear of the old post office in O'Connor Square. Some feel this might be a solution.

At the May meeting of the Municipal Authority, Cllr Danny Owens asked that any further discussions on the street enhancement project exclude the press.

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