Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Councillors say car parking a major issue at new Canal Avenue regeneration project

By Diarmuid Sherry

Councillors have critiqued the Canal Avenue Regeneration Masterplan as an “opportunity lost” for a lack of car parking detail in the new plan. The Canal Avenue Regeneration Masterplan was presented to the Elected Members at the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad meeting on Monday, 12 February. The plan was published online on Friday, 16 February. As well as the issue of car parking, councillors also questioned if there was enough space for business or workshop use although there was praise for the addition of older people homes. Publishers of the plan said its core objective “is to enable comprehensive regeneration and to encourage, social and community development by creating a highly sustainable and integrated mixed-use quarter in Mullingar that reconnects the town to the River Brosna and the Royal Canal.”

The project, funded under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, is “holistic in its approach” according to planners and comprises of eight ‘Development Opportunity Sites’ including various residential properties, a nursing home and a public pavilion.

It also vowed to “enhance the amenity potential of the River Brosna and the Royal Canal and reconnect the town centre to the river and the canal” with a “focus on sustainable urban living, underpinned by age friendly principles.”

Any implementation of the regeneration plan is envisaged to take up to 20 years to be realised.

The car is a must for rural Ireland

Numerous councillors were critical at the perceived lack of car parking in the plan. Cllr Michael Dollard said: “It’s an opportunity lost. It seems to eradicate and remove off the existing carparks.

“This area is crying out now for additional car parking and a multi-storey car park would be an ideal solution and I see no mention of it.”

Councillors Ken Glynn and Frank McDermott also said that a multi-storey car parking complex in Mullingar would be a good idea.

Labour councillor Denis Leonard said: “The reality is over the next 10 to 15 years, we really will need to get a certain amount of car parking.

“We need to re-examine the car parking. We have to be pragmatic. The car is a must for rural Ireland and a must for people coming into Mullingar and we have to provide for that in this plan and any other plan.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Bill Collentine said: “We should not be losing parking because eventually we won’t have the parking on the main streets.

“You need to be able to park close to the centre of town or you need to be able to support shops and traders in the town.”

Fine Gael councillor Emily Wallace said: “The car and the human are going to have to co-exist.

“We are Ireland. We have bad weather nine months of the year. We need our cars.”

Lorraine Middleton, the Executive Planner who was presenting the plan said: “The presentation is a small snapshot of the plan and detail in terms of the car-parking. 90% of the car-parking at Supervalu is being retained.

“When we looked at the regeneration of the area, it was felt that the retainment of the car-parking spaces was important and at the same time, to deliver the recreation and bring links back into the town centre.

“We worked closely with the Active Travel team. There is provision for parking for the planner development here.”

Deirdre Reilly, Director of Service said that any building of a multi-storey car park was likely to be difficult to afford. She said: “We did look at multi-storey car parking as part of the Blackhall project and it was €18 million to build a multi-storey car park and those prices have gone up since we done that study.

“We would not be funded for a proper project like that because it is against government policy.”

“Opportunity to create another hub”

Councillors also queried whether the regeneration plan was too residential focused and whether enough consideration was put into business or mixed-use space. Cllr Leonard said: “With less mixed-use developments, where do people go to shop? Job creation is important as well.

“There seems to be an over-emphasis on residential developments and there should be a mixed use development.

“There should be an opportunity to create a retail space. There is a huge opportunity for trade and workshops.”

Fianna Fail councillor Ken Glynn said: “We have another opportunity to create another hub. Wherever you create a new hub or plan, it not only revitalises this area but the areas around it. I would hope that it is part of the consideration, and the residents and the businesses are factored in on this.”

Cllr Collentine said: “I like to see that there is something for small workshops and businesses. That would be putting life back into the centre of town as well as employment.”

In answer to the mixed-use development concern, Mrs Middleton said concerns were a “valid point.”

She said: “I suppose it is presented as housing led which it is. There are lots of units which are all for ground floor mixed use development use, so not 100% residential.”

Positives for older people

Fianna Fáil councillor Aoife Davitt praised the thought for older people. She said: “It would be fantastic if we could engage with the residents. There are positives for older people and those with additional needs in this plan.”

Mrs Middleton said: “We have a nursing home. There was a gap in the market for older person’s housing and a block is specifically identified for older people.”

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