Disabled parking bays may be used for outdoor dining in Portlaoise


Main Street Portlaoise in July 2020.

Businesses serving food will be allowed to place outdoor dining areas on top of wheelchair parking spots in Laois.

Laois County Council has confirmed that it will however find other disabled parking bays "in close proximity".

As pubs and restaurants prepare to reopen this summer after the end of Covid-19 restrictions, the council is inviting hospitality businesses to register interest in applying for their €4,000 grant towards buying outdoor furniture.

It is also inviting businesses to request temporary permission to place the furniture in the public realm for free such as paved areas and parking spaces. The usual fee of €150 per table will be waived for the second year by the local authority.

Director of Services Simon Walton said they will "play it by ear".

"We're not looking to reduce carparking, our initial focus is on the public realm that is already pedestrianised, like Hinds Square, Lyster Square at the AIB. We will leave it like that for a week or so with a view to seeing what the mood is on this. In other counties like Kilkenny it has been an overwhelming success, we hope for the same in Portlaoise. We aim to be as reasonable as we can.

On taking over disability parking spots, he said they are required by law to provide them.

"When a business applies they might be looking to take over a number of parking spaces. We'll consider them on a case by case basis. If a disabled parking bay is taken over temporarily for outdoor dining, we will quite happily replace it in close proximity. We're obliged by law to give a certain proportion for disability parking. This is a work in progress. We will see how many applications come in. 

"We have had 58 expressions of interest so far, across the county. 20 to 25% relate to Portlaoise, some to the Main Street. The council has also acquired outdoor furniture and dining equipment," Mr Walton said.

He was answering a query at the Portlaoise Municipal District's May meeting from Cllr Willie Aird, who said residents are ringing councillors, asking questions about the loss of parking spaces.

Last summer while pandemic levels eased, the council pedestrianised part of Portlaoise Main Street to support businesses, but quickly reversed the plan after complaints by other Portlaoise businesses, and after the footfall failed to return to the town.

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