06 Oct 2022

Calls for new ring road in 'traffic-congested' Offaly town

Calls for new ring road in 'traffic-congested' Offaly town

Heavy traffic passing through Birr on the N52 is a big problem and people are calling for a ring road

An updated plan for Birr wants to see the rerouting of the busy N52 so it no longer passes through the town but around it.

The plan was discussed during a Birr 20/20 Zoom meeting last week.

Salters Sterling welcomed everyone to the Zoom meeting.

He said it was the first time ever that Birr 20/20 had held an online meeting.

“Birr 20/20 hasn't held any public meetings since March 2020, for obvious reasons,” he commented.

“Covid has devastated the world. It has devastated all of the normality that we grew up with and lived with.”

He pointed out that even though there had been no public meetings, even though Covid had cut a swathe through much of our normality, there had still been a great deal of progress in Birr during the last year.

“There has been a lot going on behind the scenes. The work has been going on and we will see the fruits of that. In fact, this evening's meeting will be an eye-opener for some of you because it will show you that more has been happening than you would have thought.”

Salters thanked Cllr John Clendennen and Breda Purcell for organising the Zoom meeting.

The new Director of Services Stephane Duclot introduced himself. He said his remit is large. It covers planning, economic development, heritage, tourism and the Birr Municipal District.

Stephane is a Frenchman and has been living in Ireland for two decades. He previously worked as a member of the Executives in Limerick and Tipperary County Councils.

Stephane drew everyone's attention to the Public Realm Plan. This, he said, remains a very important plan, a blueprint for the development of our heritage town.

“The Public Realm Plan was drawn up in 2009. It was an ambitious and farseeing plan; a plan with vision and imagination.

“It has proven to be a very valuable tool ever since. It has expertly guided the development of this beautiful town ever since.

“We have been working on the plan in recent months and we have updated it. We are excited about it. People can view it on our Council website. I urge everyone to have a look at it.”

He said great progress has been made on enhancing the town since the production of the plan twelve years ago.

“Emmet Square is now an expanse of attractive limestone with space for people and not just cars; visitor numbers to Birr Castle and Demesne have risen dramatically (pre-Covid) through much investment there; and many of the town's fine buildings have undergone improvements and restoration, enabling them to contribute far more positively to the public realm of Birr.”

Stephane said the recent updating work on the plan is called an “Addendum”. This Addendum was commissioned by Offaly County Council and written by the authors of the original plan, The Paul Hogarth Company.

The Addendum, which has been informed through consultation with local stakeholder groups, will be used alongside the original plan to further inform future planning policy and investment decisions for Birr.

The 2009 plan was compiled using a collaborative methodology with local people to assess the town, develop a shared vision for its future and to identify a series of proposals for improvements to its streets and spaces. The Addendum is conscious of the changed situation in the world and therefore it is conscious of the climate and biodiversity crisis that the planet faces.

The plan acknowledges that Birr is a “large town” and a “key service town”. It acknowledges the economic importance of Birr within its wider hinterland, providing essential services and amenities to its local population. “Until such time,” adds the plan, “as the N52 is re-routed around the town, vehicles will always negatively impact upon the pedestrian and cycle experience.”

The plan also calls for the planting of more trees.

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