Louth County Council are investigating the viability of pedestrianising West Street in Drogheda as councillors in the town unanimously backed a motion made by Mayor Kevin Callan on Monday to follow the example of towns around the country and prioritise shoppers and diners over vehicles in the town centre.
Reports in the media last week pointed to Mayor Callan tabling a motion at Monday’s Drogheda Borough Council meeting asking that the local authority pedestrianise the busy town centre thoroughfare in the town. Currently, West Street operates a one-way-system for vehicular traffic.
The council have confirmed they are working with stakeholders in Drogheda, including Drogheda BIDs and the Drogheda Chamber of Commerce, to ‘explore opportunites to increase footfall and maintain social distancing by way of a number of initiatives’, including pedestrianising a section of West Street.
Mayor Callan’s motion suggested pedestrianising the street from the junction of Stockwell Street and Duke Street to the Tholsel junction – a stretch of approximately 172m. Work has been ongoing behind-the-scenes since the idea was first mooted in May of this year. Local businesses, as well as representatives from Drogheda BIDs, the local Chamber of Commerce, local Gardai and bus operators have and continue to consulted on the matter.
“Around the country at the minute, in Cork, Malahide, Waterford, streets are being pedestrianised around Covid. It helps businesses, there’s more seating, there’s more room to move. On top of that, it’s having a positive effect on footfall in town centre areas. In my view, and it might bias, that street is one of the best stretches of historical street [and it’s] in the very heart of the town, which is serviced by a number of car parks on all sides,” Mayor Callan told the meeting.
“For me, we have an opportunity here on West Street to move towards pedestrianisation. This is something we all do together. It can’t be the way it was 20 years ago – where one or two traders say no and it doesn’t happen. We have an awful lot of stakeholders in Drogheda. I include in that the parish and people with disabilities, tourism, the traders, people of the town. There is a very clear process that should be started. We have a chance here.”
“The reality is the process has already begun. We’d all love to see this happen, once it has the blessing of the traders on West Street and it is sensitive to the needs of the vulnerable users in the town. It won’t happen overnight,” Cllr James Byrne said.
Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne said in some areas across the country, the economy had been boosted significantly in a matter of weeks as a result of pedestrianisation. “If we got a fraction of that success, it would be a job very well done here.”
“The general consensus back in May was that everyone was behind this. I think it is timely to put pen to paper and put it in black and white. It probably won’t come to fruition overnight but I’d like to see us but a plan in place to start it and build on it. Disability access has to be at the forefront of anything being implemented.” She also called for strategic street furniture, additional bins, public toilets and bicycle racks to be included in any future development of the streetscape. “It’s one area in which we’re severely lacking in the town.
“BIDs should not just be kept in the loop but the council should be working with with BIDs from the onset. They are part of this process,” Independent councillor Paddy McQuillan told the meeting. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s going to be a process, it’s going to be difficult but in the long run it’s really good for the town.”
Tom Cunningham said: “The Fleadh Cheoil showed us the way forward in this town.”