Carrick-on-Suir's two councillors have voiced disappointment and frustration that plans to provide coach parking spaces for Ormond Castle haven't yet materialised and according to a senior Council official the parking spaces won't be in place until later this year.
Cllr Kieran Bourke told Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District's monthly meeting that councillors were promised temporary coach parking facilities for the Castle would be implemented early this year but it hasn't happened and they were now into May.
District Administrator Martin Nolan explained that a consultant engaged by the Council was currently reviewing the Ormond Castle Quarter Public Realm Plan covering the Castle down to Main Street and was looking at where was the best and most suitable place for coach parking.
But Cllr Bourke recalled that the Co. Council set aside €100,000 in its budget for this year for parking and visitor facilities for Ormond Castle and last September the Municipal District's elected members attended a workshop meeting at which the Ormond Castle Access Improvement Study outlining different options for coach parking were considered.
He said it was decided then that the Council would immediately proceed with Option A to redesign the car park at New Street to include bus as well as car parking. It was also decided that drawings be prepared to allow consultation, costing and ministerial consent for the provision of a turning area and parking/drop off point outside Ormond Castle with a view to implementing the project early this year.
Cllr Bourke asked Council management why the town hadn't got the coach parking agreed upon yet?
Mr Nolan replied that this was what the consultant was working on and pointed out that it was currently feasible for a coach to park at the New Street Car Park.
Cllr Bourke responded that he parked at New Street Car Park five days a week and at the moment there weren't 10 spare parking spaces there because builders working on the Town Hall renovations were based there. He hadn't a problem with the builders taking up space in the New Street Car park but councillors did get a commitment that temporary coach parking would be provided and he was very disappointed it hasn't happened.
Mr Nolan pointed out that the Council hasn't been approached by anyone seeking parking for coaches bringing tourists to Ormond Castle. "We might be getting ahead of ourselves," he suggested.
District Engineer Willie Corby agreed with Mr Nolan that there didn't seem to be demand for bus parking spaces. He explained the consultant reviewing the Ormond Quarter Public Realm Plan was examining issues related to coach parking such as turning buses from New Street to Castle Street. He was working with a traffic consultant on the review. "It needed a bit more than a quick fix so we decided to go back and get a better handle on it," he said.
Cllr Dunne condemned the Council officials comments about the lack of demand for coach parking.
He said the coach parking plans were agreed and the Council should have been able to put in some temporary parking spaces. "Saying there is no demand for buses, that is killing it before it's started. We need to stay positive and confident. Some sort of temporary arrangement needs to be put in place," he declared.
Carrick Municipal District Director Pat Slattery outlined that when building work on the Town Hall was completed in July/August, work will start on the New Street Car Park and the public realm plan for the area around it in September/October.
He said the Council engaged a consultant to take a fresh look at some of the Ormond Quarter Public Realm Plan (approved by the former Carrick Town Council in 2014) as the OPW had concerns about some of its proposals. When he went to do the review, it was apparent that the "short-term fix" proposed for coach parking in the area wouldn't work. They needed to get the proposals right, he stressed.
Mr Slattery assured councillors the consultant's revised proposals for the Public Realm Plan including the best coach parking options will be presented to them for a decision.
Speaking to The Nationalist after the meeting, Mr Slattery said a workshop will be organised for the District's councillors within the next two weeks to discuss the draft revised public realm plan. Following the workshop, the draft plan will be brought forward to a monthly meeting of the Municipal District for approval by councillors. The favoured options are still coach parking spaces at New Street Car Park and outside the Castle but it's a matter for the councillors to decide.
He said coach parking and directional signage for the Castle will be provided for the town in the latter part of this year.
Cllr Bourke responded that he was very frustrated at the delay in providing coach parking and pointed out that this year's tourist season will be over before any parking is provided. "The Castle closes on October 27. Despite all the promotion they gave the Castle when it re-opened last year, we will have no coach parking for 2018."
The need to provide coach parking for Ormond Castle wasn't a new issue, he pointed out. Councillors were looking for this facility for years and promises were made that temporary parking spaces would be provided, he added.