Better cycle facilities, improved public transport, a community centre and a town architect were among the suggestions for improving Portlaoise town centre at an online public meeting last night.
The virtual meeting was hosted by Minister Pippa Hackett, who comes from Geashill in Offaly, and included a presentation on the Green Party’s ‘Town Centres First’ strategy.
Green Party Councillor Louise Heavin from Athlone, who gave a presentation, made the case for a town architect to be appointed.
She pointed to Clonakilty as a good example of town centre development and said that Clonakilty has its own town architect.
She said: “Portlaoise has a great arts centre, great shops, and a hospital.
“People from surrounding towns will want to visit and we need better public transport between these towns, particularly early in the morning and late in the evening.
“It would ease traffic congestion in Portlaoise.”
The amount of space given to car parks in Portlaoise was criticised by a number of attendees at the meeting.
Minister Hackett said: “The Programme for Government commits to a review of land use – and that applies to urban areas as much as it does to agriculture.”
The Green Party’s Portlaoise representative Sean McManus wants to see a great emphasis on park-and-ride facilities in the town.
He said: “We need to live, work and socialise within the town itself. We need to encourage active travel and create greater footfall in the town centre.
“I’d like to see a mix of park-and-ride facilities with transport to the town centre from places like Kilminchy and Fairgreen.”
While Minister Hackett pointed to the funding which has been made available for Portlaoise to become Ireland’s first low-carbon town and for urban regeneration.
She urged Laois County Council to avail of the funding which has been made available for cycle facilities and to appoint a cycle officer for Portlaoise.
She said: “People on this call obviously have a passion for the town so we need to see more submissions to our council for the park benches, bins, cycle paths and other improvements that people want to see.”