Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Market Square committee 'leaving businesses out'

The committee organising the proposed redevelopment of the Market Square have been criticised for not including the business community, writes Brian Byrne. This follows the presentation of a draft plan to the members of the Naas Municipal District yesterday afternoon.

The plan was devised by urban designer James Hennessy, commissioned by Kildare County Council, in conjunction with a committee of Kilcullen people and local public representatives.

However, the only retail business currently operating on the square itself — the Carry Out off-licence operated by Paddy Nugent — says it has never been invited to take part in the discussions, since the single Public Consultation Day last September.

Paddy also says that he has been in touch with a number of other businesses in the lower Kilcullen area, and they also say they have had no contact with the committee in the last year.

"I attended the presentation to the councillors in the Council offices, from the public gallery," he told the Diary. "It was very professional, but it came as no surprise to me that the car park will no longer exist. I believe that was the agenda from the start. There was no mention of any alternative to the car park or what the hundreds of people that use it on a daily basis are going to do."

Paddy says he believes this will have a detrimental effect on his own business and, in his opinion, on the other businesses in the area.

There have been a number of meetings of the committee with public officials and councillors (above), and Paddy says that as one of the businesses in the area, he counts as a 'relevant stakeholder'. "But I have never been approached by any member of the committee to discuss the concerns I have. The Market Square as a car park is essential to the social and commercial life of the town."

In relation to the stated aim that the square should become a venue for community events, he says such events which have used the area over the last year have shown that it can be used both as a venue for community events and as a car park.

The plan as shown to the councillors envisages a plaza area, with broad steps down to a walkway along the river. As part of the development, it is proposed to put a pedestrian crossing on the main street so that a 'circular' walking route would be available via the back of the Heritage Centre and under the bridge. This would also facilitate wheelchair access to the river walkway. As an extension of the development, the long-mooted footbridge across to the Valley Park could be built, possibly as a second stage.

The proposals also envisage free wifi in the square area, as part of infrastructure which also incorporates a PA sound system.

It is understood that the redevelopment would cost in the region of €400,000. Applications for funding from a number of sources are currently being prepared, and the project has already received the support of Kildare County Council.

Some pressure has been put by the redevelopment committee to have some elements of the plan implemented in time for next year's celebration of 'Kilcullen 700', marking the 700th anniversary of the building of the first bridge across the Liffey at Kilcullen.

The first public presentation on the idea for redevelopment was in July of last year. The results of the Public Consultation Day were published last October, showing a significant interest in changing the square. A parking survey was undertaken in December 2017 with the aid of TY students from Cross & Passion College.

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