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'Let the people decide' on O'Connor Square

Thursday, 3 August 2017

'Let the people decide' on O'Connor Square thumbnailCllr Tommy McKeigue

FOURTEEN months and 20 drawings later and councillors still haven't reached an agreement on the new layout for O'Connor Square under the Town Enhancement project.

The stalemate has prompted Councillor Tommy McKeigue to call for a plebiscite which would put the decision into the hands of the townspeople.

The pedestrianisation of O'Connor Square and the loss of car parking spaces has been a hot topic of debate at council meetings for over a year.

At another meeting held on Monday of this week, to which the press were not invited, it's understood architects Kenny Lyons presented the 20th design option for councillors consideration.

This allows for 33 car parking spaces and a two-way traffic system.

However, a number of design features from the original drawings appear to have been sacrificed. Gone is the water feature, the green areas and the decorative lighting and what is left is a basic car park with added trees and a reduced pedestrianised area to the north side.

However, this too was rejected by the majority of councillors who instead favour a design submitted by the O'Connor Square -Tanyard group of business people, which has 40 car parking spaces, seven more than the Kenny Lyons drawing.

The majority of the councillors want Town Manager Sean Murray to seek further designs. It's understood he has refused.

''We have now exhausted all avenues,'' said Cllr McKeigue.

''The whole thing is being influenced by a couple of chiefs from outside the council who are influencing the councillors,'' he claimed.

''There are 2,200 car spaces in Tullamore what difference will seven spaces make. We already have a small car park in the Tanyard that's hardly used at all. The objective of the town development plan is that the north side of O'Connor Square should be pedestrianised and that was agreed by all councillors. Let the people of Tullamore decide. We will show them the two options, option three is to leave the square as it is.''

Cllr McKeigue added if the town council had acted in this manner, the swimming pool, the town park or the pedestrianisation of Bury Quay would never have happened.

''Councillors took brave decisions and the pedestrianisation of Bury Quay was the best thing that could have happened,'' he added.

In a letter accompanying the design from the O'Connor Square-Tanyard Group, businessman, Tony Flanagan, said:'' They had engaged the services of NRB Consulting Engineers who are specialist Traffic and Transport Engineers. NRB have assured us that our submission adheres to the necessary requirements and standards for this project.''

Meanwhile, the President of Tullamore Chamber of Commerce, Ann Starling said the Chamber is anxious that progress is made.

''I hope that when the holidays are over that some progress will be made. The last thing we want is for work to start in the run up to Christmas. It would cause mayhem in the town and be very bad for business,'' she said.

''We would also like to have a meeting with the council officials to see what's happening," she added.

Work on the €3 million town enhancement scheme must be finished by the end of 2018 and includes the widening of footpaths, the under-grounding of wires and a bridge linking Main Street with the Bridge Centre car park.

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