ROSCREA’S Market Square is set for a major redevelopment and will see the town’s busiest junction transform from a busy thoroughfare into a more social, than traffic orientated space - but not everyone is happy with the plans.
The loss of on-street parking spaces to accommodate the new streetscape planned for Roscrea’s centre as phase one of the town’s Enhancement Plan has caused concerns for some traders whose businesses face onto Market Square, throwing a spanner in the works for Tipperary County Council’s plans to begin work on the redesign project this year.
However, the new design did receive strong support from a large portion of the town’s community, who feel sacrificing the 12 on-street parking spaces in question is both worthwhile and a step forward in terms of creating an inviting and modern town centre where the lion’s share of space will no longer be reserved for motorists.
Roscrea, being one of the country’s oldest market towns, currently operates a parking system where short-stay parking stops facilitating people visiting the shops on Main Street and Castle Street are the most frequent; while the almost 900 car-parking spaces in the town’s town’s four large carparks predominantly lie empty.
The local authority hope to attract motorists into the carparks and discourage the use of on-street parking, which they argue is a convoluted system of mostly parallel spaces, often requiring motorists to reverse blindly into the path of oncoming traffic - an issue exacerbated by the old design and topography of the heritage town’s wide, but sloping streets.
Opinions voiced at a recent meeting of the Area Engineer John Jones, local representatives and businesspeople in Roscrea reflected those concerns and were reiterated at the monthly meeting of the Municipal Council for the area last week, where some of the divided Councillors argued for advancing the project, while others stressed the trader’s concerns “must be adhered to.”
Compounding the deadlock is the lack of certainty about 24-hour access to the large carparks located on Gantly Road - an issue highlighted by Councillor Noel Coonan (FG) who said the “huge concerns of traders expressed at the very well attended meeting are legitimate.”
If the Council are to persuade motorists to use them, they must be able to access the carparks at any time Cllr. Coonan argued, pointing out the current access through Gantly Lane is privately owned and closed outside business hours.
“The Council need to engage with the owners of the property and confirm when it will be open,” Cllr. Coonan said, tempering his argument by acknowledging Roscrea’s need for upgrade and modernisation - “but it must be done right,” he stressed.
Cathaoirleach of the Municipal Council, Cllr. Michael Smith (FF), who has been involved in the three phase Enhancement Plan since its inception and spearheaded the Market Square redesign project for over four years, pointed out the development sees a major financial investment in the town aimed at creating an attractive place to visit and reside.
Councillor Shane Lee (Ind) echoed the concerns of the traders and told the meeting he feels they "must be adhered to” in the interest of protecting the businesses and ratepayers located on Market Square.
Area Engineer, John Jones, told the meeting the Council hope to create two lanes for access to the Gantly Lane carparks and have already engaged with the landowners with a view to “opening up the carparks.”
"Negotiations are underway with the owners of the lanes, which are private property and we hope to have an update by next month,” he said.
However, the Council are not fixed on the idea of opening the laneways 24-hours and pointed out that closing the lanes at night might help prevent incidents of anti-social behaviour.
“It appears the on-street parking numbers die off in the evening time and we are examining if the access lanes for the carparks need to be open 24-hours,” Thomas Ryan from the Engineering department told the meeting.
“We also feel parking on Main Street is dangerous and the current system of reversing onto a busy street is not working,” he added.
“I was at the meeting in Roscrea and heard the concerns of the traders,” John Jones said, adding that the project is currently out to tender and that any changes to accommodate their recently raised concerns cannot be inserted in the plans while the tendering process is ongoing. "But I’m very confident those concerns will be accommodated,” the Engineer said.
“I just hope it’s not too little too late,” Cllr. Coonan told the meeting, again highlighting “the importance of access to the off-street carparks.”
Cllr. Coonan added that he wants the Engineer and Council officials involved in the project to return to Roscrea for a follow-up meeting with the traders and public “to update the people of Roscrea” as the project progresses.