Strong backing for improved on-street dining in Offaly town
A strong commitment has been made to do whatever is possible to encourage on street dining in an Offaly town.
The six councillors of Birr Municipal District discussed the issue during their June monthly meeting. The councillors talked about the Section 254 form.
Section 254 licences are required if you want to do things like placing a vending machine, or a town map, or scaffolding, telephone kiosk, etc, along a public road. They are a reasonably simple form to fill out and require a fee. Applicants submit them to the local authority.
Cllrs John Clendennen and John Carroll told the meeting that a lot of people have said to them that the onstreet dining situation is not as favourable in Birr as it is in Tullamore or other towns.
“The public are saying to us,” remarked Cllr Carroll, “why isn't there a better outdoor dining setup in the town? There are people dining on the Birr pavements outside cafés but the pavements in Birr are too narrow. Sometimes wheelchair users are complaining to us that they have problems getting along the footpaths. Child buggies is an issue as well. I think the solution is removing some of the carparking spaces and allowing the cafés to extend their tables and chairs further out onto the street.” Cllr Clendennen agreed.
It was agreed that as the town emerges from the Pandemic there will be good will among retailers for removing car parking spaces.
“We should do all we can to facilitate cafés, pubs, restaurants in their outdoor dining endeavours as they emerge from a very difficult 18 months,” said Cllr Clendennen.
The councillors agreed to charge retailers no fee when submitting a Section 254 form.
Stephane Duclot, Director of Services, said the form is a relatively simple piece of “paperwork”, which can be found on the Council's website. “Filling out the Section 254 is simple but myself or the Area Engineer John Mitchell will happily help people fill it out if they ring us.” The Council also agreed to greatly speed up any Section 254 applications.
Cllr Carroll commented that a vibrant on street dining culture is very important for the town, but it would probably be shortlived, lasting perhaps until September when indoor dining will, probably, become more popular.
“This Council has a long history of doing all it can to assist businesses,” he remarked. “Only one business has come forward with a 254 application so far. I would strongly encourage more businesses to follow suit.
“We want coming into Birr to be an experience which people will remember. Sometimes the Main Street seems a bit quiet. The Council would like to see more buzz and energy.”
Cllr Eamon Dooley said it was right that the Council should bend the rules a little because we are living in very strange times and it can't be business as usual.
“Pubs and restaurants have taken a very hard hit over the last 18 months. We want to help them to the best of our ability.”
Cllr Peter Ormond, Cathaoirleach of Birr Municipal District promised that the Council will not be found wanting when it comes to assisting businesses.
John Mitchell promised to prioritise any section 254 application “so they are turned around as quickly as possible.”
Cllr Carroll said room on Market Square could be used for outdoor dining. He said a few people would like to see some of Main Street pedestrianised, but “such a move would have to be strongly people-led rather than imposed by us.”
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