The development at O'Connell Square in Edenderry is causing uproar and serious opposition from locals and businesspeople as works continue this week.
The project is part of the government's Urban Village Renewal grant scheme, through which €100,000 has been allotted to Edenderry.
The works, which commenced before Christmas, include provision to extend the paved area around the Town Hall building area; simplify the road route/vehicular circulation around the square and the parking layout; add two new courtesy crossings at O’Connell Square; re-site the bus shelter at JKL Street, off O’Connell Square; and install a new bus shelter on the southern side of JKL Street. Around 10 parking spaces have been lost in the square as a result of the development which is continuing.
As well as that, the plans look to make alterations to the existing surface water drainage in order to accommodate the works; install outdoor lighting at the Town Hall and O’Connell Square and outdoor electrical outlets; refurbish the steps and ramps at the Town Hall building; and alter the layout and paving along JKL Street from O’Connell Square to the Carrick Road junction.
The final part of the plan is to add tree and shrub planting in O’Connell Square and along JKL Street at the newly paved areas, install street furniture, seating, tree guards, bollards etc., and provide for enhanced disabled persons parking areas in O’Connell Square and JKL Street.
Local charity activist and former election candidate, Ken Smollen, let his outrage be known about what was happening on social media this week. He said: "Who made the decision that will undoubtedly do a lot of harm to businesses in the town forever? This is Offaly and this is Ireland NOT some quaint little skateboarding town or village in Belgium or France."
He also continued by stating, "There's something very wrong with a system that allows 6 County Councillors to ignore a petition signed by 3,500 of the people they supposedly represent. With so many businesses all over Ireland struggling to keep their doors open, it's help that they need by making it easier for potential customers to have easier access to their businesses. We are allowing our towns and villages to die by pushing business customers out of our towns and into retail parks on the outskirts of towns."
"Offaly needs to encourage tourism not try drive it away. No one is coming to the square in Edenderry," a local vented. "Taking away parking spaces from a busy town is not right, so when they decided to do this, there should have also been a plan implemented for auxiliary parking at a nearby location," they added.
There has also been widespread condemnation of the works from businesses in the Square, all of whom lament the loss of parking spaces and therefore custom in their premises.
The works are continuing this week as the layout of the junction of the Square onto JKL Street changes with paved speed ramps. The new paving and landscaping works will go on for a number of months.