A visual impression of a pedestrianised Main Street
The long mooted pedestrianisation of Portlaoise's Main Street will become a reality, albeit temporarily, this July and August.
Announcing the decision the Council said they were taking the action in order to “support adherence to public health guidelines, to support the measures outlined in the Roadmap for the Reopening of Society and Business, to support the actions of the County Laois Business Recovery Group and to enable Main Street to be a Covid Compliant Street.”
Simon Walton, Director of Services, Laois County Council commented, “Supporting local businesses and traders is critically important in order to sustain employment and reinvigorate economic activity.
“At the same time, as businesses reopen and lockdown restrictions are relaxed, there remains the fundamental public health advice of 2m social distancing, avoidance of crowds and limited contacts with others when out and about.
“Allowing that local businesses may need access to external 'public’ space so as to compensate for loss of floor space internally, customers also need additional space such that they can comply with social distancing, feel safe and have confidence in the space.
“If consumers lack that confidence they are unlikely to engage with the space in the first instance.
“It is also of note that, aside from the pedestrianisation, there are other works scheduled for Main Street in the coming weeks to include removal of bollards, enhancements to street furniture, soft landscaping, allowance for Click and Collect parking, shopfront painting etc. all of which is with a view to ensuring that, as the main street of the principal town, Main Street, Portlaoise is an exemplar in the local recovery from the Covid 19 pandemic.
Mark Healy is Chairman of Downtown Portlaoise Traders group who had discussed the plan at Town Team meetings.
“It is a brave thing to try, but at the moment we are all willing to try something, to give it a go. There are definitely some supports needed for hospitality. The majority of them are eager to get back open,” he said.
“We are happy that the council is looking at doing this. It would be a big help particularly to the hospitality businesses, the pub and restaurants because they could lose such a significant proportion of their business.
“It will also help with social distancing. If people were queuing at a shop and cars were driving by, that wouldn't leave much space,” he said.
“The street will be open to traffic up to 11am. This will help older people and deliveries, people picking up prescriptions,” he said.
He understands that the two month trial could be in place longer if it goes down well. “It could last longer if seen as successful. It might not suit everybody but the general consensus is it's worth a try. What's best for the majority of people in the town is best for everybody.”
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