County Hall is hiring consultants to come up with a plan for a large part of the town centre that has largely been left out in the development of Portlaoise in recent years.
The Leinster Express understands that tenders have been opened from firms to win the contract.
Laois County Council invited tenders earlier this year. The plan targets includes Main Street west to the the train station and north east to SS Peter & Paul's Church. Lyster Square is excluded from the area.
Church land and buildings that are on the market are included, as is the area south of Market Square to the railway bridge.
“Tenders are invited from suitably qualified and experienced companies to prepare a Public Realm Strategy for Portlaoise Town that will develop and deliver the most effective presentation, management and development of the town’s public realm, with particular reference to its historic town core and how it relates to new areas developed outside of it and to provide recommendations in relation to its future public realm,” said the council when inviting tenders.
The five year strategy will include a set of detailed public realm plans for each component street or public realm element (square/market place) for the “enhanced presentation and development of Portlaoise’s public realm including and action plan setting out phasing and costings of specific projects, lead partners, sources of funding, maintenance etc”.
The council said the strategy will define in broad terms, the role of the public realm including:
1. A ‘Shared Vision’ for Portlaoise’s public realm consisting of public spaces, public buildings, parks, walkways, etc.
2. Key urban spaces designated for enhancement,
3. Pedestrian priority linkages between the old and new areas and
4. The nature of restraint in remaining trafficked areas (speed reduction, space sharing, calming, lane restrictions, vehicle restrictions).
The council says it is also ' keen' to develop an annual programme of projects and events to enhance the town.
The council said that the James Fintan Lalor Avenue “changed the face of Portlaoise”. While this facilitated new commercial and industrial development in its vicinity, as well as the building of the new County Hall, the council accepts that the retail core has now shifted to the edge of the old town core.
The council said the 21st century has brought a refocus on traffic management throughout the town with the primary objective to shift the N80 from JFL Avenue to the network of relief routes that have been partly built, and going through planning and construction currently. It said an opportunity arises too with the relocation of the schools from the town centre to larger sites on the edge of centre locations.
“An opportunity now arises to address the town core, approach roads and new quarters and how they are connected and made more accessible and attractive to the towns citizens and visitors alike.
“It is envisaged that the Portlaoise Public Realm Plan will inform future Local Area Plans for the town,” said the tender document.
Portlaoise Municipal District Council, Laois County Council Planning and Economic Development Department and the council's road Design Department will be the “main beneficiaries”.
“However this strategy should inform an overall shared vision for Portlaoise which should give benefit to property owners, guiding public and private investment. It should stimulate interest and provide guidance for residents, developers, Portlaoise Tidy Towns, tourism bodies and transport providers. It should greatly enhance public understanding and appreciation of Portlaoise to both the county citizens and the tourist,” says the document.
The “key stakeholders”l include: Portlaoise Municpal District/Laois County Council, property owners,
Downtown Portlaoise, transport companies, Laois Chamber, Laois Heritage Society, Portlaoise Tidy Towns, National Monuments Service, Fáilte Ireland, Heritage Council. The public is not isted but must be consulted.
“A strong element of public consultation will be expected throughout the plan – the process may be as important as the end result”.