Opinions are divided in Killaloe about the long-term impact of an €140,000 investment on new pedestrian crossings, improved footpaths and refuge islands, which have resulted in a temporary loss of business for some traders during construction work.
Clare County Council insist the overall scheme will enhance the environment for residents and visitors once the works are completed.
Local traders in the southern end of the town, who claim they have suffered a drop in trade due to the loss of set down parking at Royal Parade, have questioned the timing of the works during the busiest time for retailers in the lead up to Christmas.
The council explained that completing this work before the end of the year was a specific requirement of the project, which is funded by the Department of Transport’s Active Travel Town Scheme.
It stated the works, which started a number of weeks ago, are now nearing completion and predicted that the remaining traffic management facilities should be removed by Wednesday evening, following the restoration of set down bays on Royal Parade last week.
Killaloe Civic Trust and Ballina Killaloe Business Association (BKBA) is supporting the development.
Acknowledging that the timing of the works did cause some inconvenience for traders, BKBA chairperson, Mariam O’Donovan said the association is pleased most of the work would be completed on Wednesday evening, which meant the town was open for business.
She said the group looked forward to working in a strategic way with the council, gardaí, residents, businesses and all interested parties to improve traffic management in the town.
Councillor Joe Cooney witnessed a potentially dangerous situation last Friday afternoon when a fire engine was blocked at Royal Parade and a fireman in a support vehicle had to stop traffic at Convent Hill to facilitate access to attend an incident on Church Street.
He queried traffic management and parking at Convent Hill and Royal Parade, particularly proper access for emergency vehicles and has raised these with the council.
He received a number of calls from residents last week highlighting the loss of set-down parking at Royal Parade and the reduction in the carriageway at the bottom of Convent Hill, which removes the ability of a car to turn left onto Royal Parade if a car in front of it is turning right on to the old Limerick Road.
Evelyn Whelan of Whelan’s Foodstore claimed the council told businesses at a recent meeting that all this work would be fully completed last Friday.
While Ms Whelan supports improved access for wheelchair users, she believes the footpaths don’t need to be built as wide and could be provided at other access points on the Main Street.
She claimed their business and other businesses in the area have been adversely affected and can’t understand why work had to be carried out during their busiest period.
Tom Clifford, Killaloe, claims two cars and or heavy goods vehicles can no longer pass each other out outside the entrance to the Catherdal near Royal Parade.
He says no access dishes have been provided for wheelchair users in Convent Hill because this can’t be done without raising the road by about four inches to avoid the drop.
While there has been temporary impacts on access to an area outside the bank on Royal Parade for a period to facilitate construction, senior executive engineer, Hugh McGrath says, in general, the works have facilitated normal business activity.
Contrary to concerns raised, Mr McGrath insists the works have not resulted in any reduction in the road width at the narrower sections of Royal Parade, which has always been restrictive.
In fact, he believes the works prioritise public safety and access to emergency services and the council is satisfied that these requirements have been and will continue to be met.
However, the council believes inappropriate parking near the junction of Church Street and Royal Parade are causing problems, which it hopes to address with the co-operation of the Ballina\Killaloe Business Association as part of a new Traffic Management Strategy for the town.
It is expected that parking issues will be addressed during a meeting with traders in the new year.
While the major works are complete, Mr McGrath acknowledges some minor works are still outstanding, including the final road markings at Convent Hill.
“The final improvements, once complete, will provide greater protection for pedestrians including a significant number of school children who cross the road at this point.
The scheme, once complete, will also provide traffic calming with the reduced carriageway width, and pedestrian facilities without causing any significant impact to motorists.
“During recent discussion with residents in this particular area, concerns were relayed to us regarding speed control on Convent Hill and sightline visibility from the Millstream Estate, which are addressed by the current works.
“While the council accepts that these types of works inevitably result in a level of inconvenience, the impact in this case has primarily affected the set down areas on Royal Parade for a short duration.
“We appreciate the patience of residents and the business community in this regard.
“The Council is very much appreciative of the endorsement and support in this project of the local businesses including the Ballina\Killaloe Business Association, and the Ballina\Killaloe Civic Trust as well as the schools who have supported this scheme from initiation earlier this year,” he concluded.