pORTLAOISE’S councillors appeared determined to do something about getting shoppers back to the town’s Main St in a week when a new initiative was launched to revitalise what was once the county’s busiest shopping street.
“We are talking here month after month and doing nothing. We need to get the vibrancy back into Main Street,” Cllr Willie Aird told his Town Council colleagues at this month’s meeting.
“A lot of soul searching has to be done and people should not be afraid of change.”
Cllr Aird was responding to motions by Cllrs Jerry Lodge and Catherine Fitzgerald that the council work with traders on Main Street to enhance the area.
Cllr Fitzgerald asked the council to consider no parking fees on Saturdays.
“We introduced pay parking into the town and we can unravel it. It was never brought in to make money, but to encourage the free flow of strategic parking spaces in the town. The whole shopping sphere is on the right hand side of JFL Avenue, we’re talking about the left hand side.”
Cllr Aird said change must happen.
“It’s very important we change things. Hundreds of thousands of euros have been spent on Main Street and the surrounding streets. We have to look at how to get the footfall back on to the street.
Cllr Lodge said he was aware that discussions had taken place between the new traders group, Downtown Portlaoise, and the County Manager.
“I want the Town Council to be seen as the leading driver with the traders and other groups. It’s like the ECB with Ireland, Greece and Portugal - we’re tinkering with the problem but we’re not solving it.
“We’re at the critical stage now, this is the 11th hour. If we want to save Main Street we’re going to have to make changes.”
Cllr Fitzgerald paid tribute to the new retail group who, she said, had “put in an amazing amount of work over the last few months.”
She said there was around 500 people employed in different business around the town, and it was important that the council had the right environment to keep these business’ open.
“Parking is very important. We should look at three hour parking, as people tell me two hours is not long enough if you want to go get your hair done and do a few bits.
She suggested making parking free one Saturday every couple of weeks to see how that worked out.
Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said the new retail group wanted to enhance the town.
“They put out window boxes and hanging baskets. They are working together but they will need our help.”(See Page 36)