Laois County Councillor Mary Sweeney has sought an update from Laois County Council on how they plan for the facilitation of public spaces for retail and hospitality businesses in the Portlaoise area when Covid-19 restrictions ease.
Fine Gael’s Sweeney raised the issue at this morning’s meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District.
Last week, Laois County Council was allocated €250,000 from a new Outdoor Public Space Scheme and this money can be used to upgrade outdoor spaces for cultural events.
Cllr Sweeney said: “I have raised this issue previously with regards to Portlaoise leading out on ensuring that businesses are facilitated as much as possible to ensure they can bounce back from the prolonged period of lockdown.
“It is difficult to predict when businesses will fully reopen given the unpredictability of the virus and the vaccine rollout but I believe its important we are ready for that hopeful day.
“I want to acknowledge the efforts of the Council in working with the business community as much as possible to facilitate the use of public spaces, notably the opening up of the main street to more pedestrian traffic
“I would ask that Laois County Council continue to operate in the innovate way in this regard in the same manner that businesses have had to be resilient and flexible to keep their doors open when allowed.
“I would encourage Laois County Council to work with local businesses to assess what can be done to improve upon last years excellent efforts and to identify any new proposals that can reinvigorate and support our town centres and our business community.
“In tandem, the government has announced a funding scheme last week to open up outdoor public spaces dedicated to Art’s culture, festivals and the night-time economy.
“I recognise that we are all finding it difficult to imagine any of these events right now but in order to ensure the viability of these sectors going forward we need to support them as much as possible and have plans in place for their return.
“I understand each Local Authority can apply for up to €250,000 and have the council any project or projects in mind for this fund.”
In reply, Director of Services Simon Walton said that the Council would engage with relevant stakeholders to see how best to proceed.
He said: “Laois County Council is amenable to and supports the reallocation of public spaces insofar as that reallocation of space is in the general public interest and supports local economic activity.
“As public health restrictions ease Laois County Council will proactively engage with any retail and hospitality businesses that are seeking access to public spaces in support of their business recovery.”