Mayor Drogheda Kevin Callan says it is imperative that the first trial run of the West Street pedestrianisation in the town identifies issues such as traffic backlogs – so that the local authority can get a full picture of whether the scheme has potential for growth.
Independent councillor Callan was among the locals who took to the town’s main thoroughfare on Saturday and Sunday to see first hand the impact of the pilot project – which will be rolled out again for follow up weekends in October and November.
Speaking on Monday, he said that the feedback was largely positive from shoppers and locals but admitted there were concerns from some traders on West Street. The pedestrianisation takes place from the junction of Stockwell Street and Peter Street.
“In terms of those members of the public who came onto the pedestrianised section of the street, the feedback was very positive with people walking into town for the first time ever,” he said.
“A number of families with young children and senior citizens said they really enjoyed the calm and relaxed atmosphere and having more room to shop, move around and to use the space. A number of traders also expressed their concerns.
The local authority received 60 objections to the pedestrianisation trial in the week’s leading up to Saturday and Sunday’s first pilot. The complaints focused on issues such as traffic, a decrease in parking spaces, the movement of disabled bays and town bus services having to be rerouted.
“In terms of traffic we found that streets like Magdalene Street and Peter Street and Fair Street which are usually congested heavily were clear and flowing. One area where congestion was identified on Saturday was from Narrow West Street to Stockwell Street and down to the Haymarket Bridge which then led back towards the Garda Station.
“This issue has been noted and recognised going forward. The entire point of a trial is to see what works and what does not work and this has been identified,” Cllr Callan continued.
Not all street furniture and items such as parklets and parasols were available to the council in time to roll them out for last weekend but it is expected that they will be in place for October.
Council staff were also on hand over the weekend to assist those attending mass to enter and exit the church plaza, while members of Love Drogheda BIDs and Drogheda Chamber were also on the street throughout the weekend to talk to people about the trial as were a number of elected representatives from Drogheda Borough Council.
“With Covid this trial allowed us to experience a weekend when people were able to move around with far more space and to enjoy the town centre area.
Other counties have brought pedestrianisation in for weeks and months at a time, we have selected a weekend period to allow minimal disruption during the week and also to allow us to see issues which may need to be addressed and traffic on West Street is the main one we can see from the weekend”.
“I was very pleased to see zero anti social behaviour on the street on either day and also to have seen the traffic issues which we need to know exist.
One area was heavily congested whilst another of other streets which are usually badly backed up were running very clearly. A number of businesses in the town centre area off West Street also let me know trade was either steady or up from their usual weekends so we will now see what the surveys and the footfall counters say and see what the next steps are,” Cllr Callan concluded.