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Friday, 29th May 2020

Council’s plans for town centre revealed

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They have come in for some criticism over their lack of communication about their responses to Covid 19 in the county’s towns, but Louth County Council have finally published their plans. Here is their statement:

Town Centre Economic Recovery and Staying safe

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered how we go about our daily lives, how we get groceries, where we go, who we see, and what we do.

The requirement of “social or physical distancing”—maintaining at least 2 metres distance between people, with significant reductions or bans on group gatherings and crowds—combined with what we know today about the transmission of this corona virus and its increased communicability in indoor settings, requires that we reallocate our streets and public realm for public use during this crisis and for the future. 

The need is now.

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We are working in real time to grapple with COVID’s devastating economic impacts. Louth County Council is working with the Business Improvement Districts in Dundalk and Drogheda and the Disability Louth Forum to chart a safe course to allow businesses, and services to re-open in the town centers. The Council has conducted street audits and identified queuing hot spots. With the assistance of the BIDS town centre manager’s different solutions are being rolled through consultation with the retailers.

In Drogheda the parking for a loading bay has been reduced on Laurence Street and parking has been removed on a section of North Quay to achieve social distancing.

The roll out of a one-way system has commenced in Drogheda on Shop St and Stockwell Lane as these footpaths are very narrow for social distancing. The roll out of the one-way footpath system in Dundalk is due to commence next week. 

This is a Good Will system. As the phases in the National Road map commence more businesses and retailers will open and footfall will increase. Hence the need for phased interventions and constant review and monitoring. 

It is important that the measures we take are inclusive and age friendly. The council has held discussions with representatives of the Disability Louth Forum. Our challenge is the same for this group to make the town centre safe for them to carry out their daily lives. 

Those with disabilities face additional challenges in regard to queuing, particularly the visually impaired and those with an intellectual disability. Those with a hearing disability have problems with understanding staff with masks, and hearing staff behind screens.

The Council is working with the Disability forum, and the traders to find solutions. Some suggestions have been for the traders to have a Disability customer charter, appointments for those with a disability, priority queuing, queue & collect systems, and disability parking to be considered and augmented in any change street solutions.

We are starting on this journey the identification of queuing hot spots and the town centre one-way footpaths systems are the first phase.

The next stage is to develop proposals for potential outdoor food court areas, and additional queuing areas.  We have identified possible locations using existing underutilised areas and parts of the public realm that are not required for pedestrian traffic.

We are examining proposals for some streets with large footfall where parking could be used for pedestrians or food courts.

In Drogheda we are exploring whether some pedestrian friendly area from Stockwell Street to Laurence’s St. could provide a temporary solution.  

With the assistance of BIDS we are identifying restaurant clusters and designate ‘dining street’ zones. Louth County Council is proposing to waive permit fees for outdoor dining within preselected zones.

Bring communities into the process.

While responding to the immediate urgent situation under Phase 1 we will have more opportunity to engage with stakeholders in the coming weeks. Ensuring the voices of a wide variety of local stakeholders is essential to project development and implementation. Local groups will provide key information to make projects better and help disseminate information. 

Act now and adapt over time.

Action is needed now. Adopting an open and iterative approach to planning will allow for rapid implementation, continuous feedback, and course correction that will enable our towns to respond better and faster to future COVID outbreaks. Quick-build strategies today can inform lasting improvements over the course of recovery and beyond. Regular dialogue with local groups will provide essential on-the-ground information about how efforts are working and what should be modified over time

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