Officials inform us that residents and businesses will soon get their final say on the long awaited and planned €3 million revamp of Liberty Square here in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
The already unveiled basic blueprint planned for Liberty Square, was viewed by ‘all and sundry’ last summer, while inviting suggestions from the resident public. Now local officials confirm these plans and all submitted suggestions are ready for final viewing in the weeks ahead, thus allowing for further final discussions.
This planned project to-date involves the removal of car parking facilities, presently restricted to the central median, in favour of off-street car parking behind the south side of the town’s business premises. Some limited, on-street parallel parking will continue, however wider footpaths are en-envisaged, together with 3 courtesy pedestrian crossing.
Tipperary Co. Council have also this month launched a new initiative aimed at rejuvenating businesses in the centre area of Thurles. (This new initiative will also include 8 other towns in the county, e.g. Templemore, Nenagh, Roscrea, Tipperary Town, Cashel, Cahir Carrick-an-Suir and Clonmel.) This newest initiative involves commissioning a ‘Retail Expert’ to work with each town’s stakeholders in the hope of preparing a viable future vision for Co.Tipperary’s main town centres. The council is making €500,000 (county-wide) available for this initiative with the hope of securing additional funding from other external sources.
For Thurles presently this new plan arrives “after the horse has bolted,” coming into being against the difficult backdrop of already trading multiple discounters like Aldi, Lidl and Dunnes Stores, latter who control the entrance to the three main arterial corridors into Thurles.
The arrival of these latter multiple discounters was inevitable and indeed in most cases welcome, especially to those households in receipt of low incomes. However while offering discount pricing, they also offer ‘Free Parking’ to all customers, an option not readily available to shoppers choosing to frequent shops in the Thurles town centre. Other previously established free to use car parking areas like Thurles Railway Station, Hayes Hotel, Costcutters etc., which heretofore provided free car parking space for customers, found themselves also introducing car park charges, latter forced on them to halt non customer parking, latter to avoid paying the local authority enforced charges.
So what solutions will our ‘Retail Expert’ find in relation to these town centre areas and will his €500,000 findings be left to gather dust on some Tipperary Co Council book shelf?
The local press headlines, both radio and newspaper, in the last number of weeks, when reporting this latest proposal, failed to dig deep for any solution to increased footfall and generally stated: “Details of this new initiative were outlined at this week’s meeting of Tipperary Co Council, at which the plan was generally welcomed. However, Councillors argued that commercial rates and parking changes would remain key issues, while others complained that the plan would make no difference to the county’s smaller towns.”
What is really being stated in these media reports is that little imagination is being displayed by either the public or officialdom. No possible solutions are being discussed and we are exhibiting the usual apathy when presented with a very, very serious county-wide problem. This latter, which if not corrected soon, will have a most injurious effect on all the town’s of Co. Tipperary, with regard to town centre trading areas and their adjoining streets.
Question: Free parking set aside, what is the difference between a multiple discount shopping centre area and Liberty Square, Thurles?
Answer: Only one difference – a multiple discount shopping centre area has one roof, while Liberty Square is open to the discomfort of our ever changing Irish weather conditions.
Offer appeasement and comfort to our now increasingly absent footfall in Tipperary town centres.
No I am not suggesting we erect a roof over Liberty Square and surrounding streets. What I am suggesting however is that under these new plans to upgrade Liberty Square; Awnings, Canopies, call them what you will, should be included in any future agreed plans.
No, I am not suggesting pieces of canvas strung between four aluminium poles, to be retracted at the first sign of a strong wind. I am suggesting something permanent, yet decorative, like glass roofed Victorian cast iron awnings, fronting all of our shops as demonstrated in the picture shown above, left. Now Liberty Square, using its envisaged wider footpaths, can become a competing multiple discount shopping centre, displaying all its individual shop units, thus offering competition in some way to the present shopping centre style model.
Have you our readers got any ideas? What is your vision for Liberty Square, into the future?.
Please add comment on your vision of Liberty Square into the future by clicking HERE and join in the debate.