AN underground car park could replace all surface parking at Lyster Square in Portlaoise, under a new plan commissioned by Laois County Council.
A beautifully-landscaped public area filled with trees, shrubs and peaceful walkways would replace the current traffic-thronged square, if the ambitious scheme gets a green light.
The plan, titled A vision for Portlaoise − a strategy for a better town centre, was unveiled to the public at an information workshop in the town’s Heritage Hotel last week.
The consultants who devised the plan recommend that surface parking in Lyster Square should be replaced by a public space, including a canopy on part of the square opposite the AIB and Bank of Ireland buildings. The proposal is a key part of the strategy, which has a time span up to 2040.
The plan was prepared by consultants GVA Planning and Regeneration Ltd, which was commissioned by the county council to devise a regeneration plan for the town centre.
Other recommendations for the town centre, as well as what are described in the plan as “proposed strategies, interventions and policies” include:
• Expansion of the town’s top and lower squares
• Removal of dual carriageway from James Fintan Lalor Avenue
• Limited pedestrianisation of Main Street
• Building of ‘a signature landmark building’
• Tackling derelict sites on Main Street
• Development of green areas and river walk.
• Pedestrian priority linkages between the old and new areas of the town
• A ‘shared vision’ for Portlaoise town centre’s public spaces, parks, landscaping, walkways, traffic, transport and parking
• Key ‘design interventions’ for urban spaces designated for enhancement
• A 3D model of the town centre showing the existing town, the proposed interventions and the exposure and showcasing of heritage assets in the town, such as the old fort
Another key aim in the plan is to get more people living in the old town centre. While the suburbs of Portlaoise have expanded to more than 23,000 residents, only about 600 people currently live in the town centre.
Public ‘stakeholder workshops’ and information evenings were held last August and October and feedback on the plan was included at last week’s public workshop on Tuesday 4 April.
A county council spokesperson said the information workshops gave the project team “invaluable information and feedback”, which shaped the preparation of the Portlaoise town centre public realm strategy/vision statement, also known as 2040: A vision for Portlaoise.
Meanwhile, a GVA Planning spokesman said the consultants are keen to continue to engage not only with people living or working in the centre of Portlaoise but also with people living in the wider town, businesses in the area and visitors or tourists.
People can still make submissions on the plan, but the closing date is 4pm on Friday 21 April. Submissions can be made by emailing Brian Maher of GVA Planning at [email protected] or by post to Brian Maher, GVA Planning, Seagrave House, 19-20 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2.