Grand plan for Portlaoise could involve some big changes

Consultants commissioned by Laois County Council present outline of their proposals to public meeting

A major overhaul of Portlaoise town centre aimed at revitalising the town could involve extensive changes to the town as we know it.

Details of the plan for Portlaoise's Public Realm will be available to the public this week but its contents were outlined by the team of consultants involved at a public meeting in Portlaoise on Tuesday night April 4. This was the third public meeting on the plan which will run to 2040.

Among the key recommendations are as follows:

  •   Expansion of the town's top and lower squares.
  •   Removal of dual carriageway from James Fintan Lalor Avenue.
  •   Underground car park on Lyster Square in front of Mulhall's supermarket.
  •   Removal of all surface car parking Lyster Square.
  •   Canopy over part of Lyster Square and addition of trees.
  •   Limited pedestrianisation of Main street.
  •   Building of signature land mark building.
  •   Overhaul of lanes.
  •   Restoration of the town's heritage.
  •   Tackling the dereliction on Main Street.
  •   Development the green areas and river walk. 

Apart from improving the appearance of the town and reducing traffic, it has some key aims. One big target is to get more people living in the old town centre. The population of old Portlaoise has dwindled to just 600 while the surrounding town and suburbs area have mushroomed to over 23,000.

Another aim, achieved mainly be tackling James Fintan Lalor Avenue, is to bridge the divide between Lyster Square and Main Street and the new retail are of the town where some of the large supermarket chains are based.

The plan goes out for public review for the next two weeks but it has yet to be adopted for implementation by Laois County Council. No costs have been put on the changes.

Laois County Council's chief executive John Mulholland commissioned the plan. He spoke of the opportunity it represents to revitalise Portlaoise which he said was 'becoming a city'. He said the plan represents a vision of ambition for what the town can become especially as the economy recovers.

"I see Portlaoise as a model town that can recover and stand on its own two feet," he said. 

However, there was mixed reaction to the project. Several local businesses challenged its contents. "That vision you have will close us," was the stark assessment of Ger Mulhall of Mulhall's supermarket.

As for the general public, John Dunne felt the plan was more at home in California. However, one person welcomed the potential it has to the develop the arts while a teenager said the time frame given for implementation is far to long.

Hard copies of the plan will be available for public review in Laois County Council HQ from Wednesday of this week and will also available on it's website where a 3D film can be viewed.

More in next week's Leinster Express newspaper and online during the week ahead.

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