Portlaoise wheelchair parking spaces taken for outdoor dining 'caused upset'

Portlaoise wheelchair parking spaces taken for outdoor dining 'caused upset'

Outdoor dining in Main Street Portlaoise in July 2020.

The upset caused by the use of wheelchair parking spaces for outdoor dining in Portlaoise this summer arose from "a bit of confusion" says a local councillor.

While Laois County Council has stood by its promise to provide alternative disability parking spaces close to those now being used by pubs and restaurants, the news had upset local people with disabilities who were used to parking in the spaces.

The spaces now occupied by tables and chairs are a temporary measure to help businesses reopening after the Covid pandemic.

The confusion was cleared up at the June meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District when it was heard that just three spaces had been allowed to be occupied, and alternative parking spaces were just meters away.

Portlaoise area engineer Wes Wilkinson confirmed details.

"There were two spaces in Market Square near Coppers, and they have been moved to the next two spaces. There was one at the Welcome Inn. It was smaller than standard and now the new space is larger than standard with greater space around it to dismount," he said.

Cllr Noel Tuohy had tabled a motion asking how many and where are the disability parking spaces are in Portlaoise.

Laois County Council replied that there is disabled parking provided at many locations in the town centre of Portlaoise and at various shops and businesses within the town.

"The number of disabled spaces within the town centre parking bye law area is 15.  The number of parking bays in the town is consistent with the recommended rate of provision of disabled spaces nationally. Laois County Council supports the provision of disabled parking bays and should the member wish to request additional bays, this can be considered."

Cllr Tuohy replied.

"I wouldn't pay much attention to the national figures. We in Portlaoise have to look after Portlaoise. We must do everything possible to assist businesses after this difficult time, but going forward we must ensure we have enough available and consult with people with disabilities."

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley who seconded said there had been confusion and upset.

"The council had clarified on a number of occasions that spaces would be relocated in the area but there was a bit of confusion and it has caused a bit of upset. People felt rightly that their spaces were taken away," she said.

The Portlaoise Town Manager is Director of Services Simon Walton.

"The new spaces were already in place prior to outdoor dining and they are within 20 metres. They are actually to a higher standard. It is simply not the case that Laois County Council is ignoring the needs of people with disablities.

"There is also a town centre survey to be done which will set out the needs of people including the elderly and those with disabilities and that will advise further investments," he added.

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