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Al fresco Westport?


SPACE FOR USE Cllr Peter Flynn has again questioned the need for traffic to dominate the movements on Westport main thoroughfare, Bridge Street. Pic: Conor McKeown

Áine Ryan

WITH the pandemic putting a focus on outdoor dining and use of public spaces, it is past time that towns like Westport properly examine ‘the role of the car in the town centre’. That is the view of Fine Gael councillor, Peter Flynn who was responding to Mayo News questions yesterday (Monday) about the ongoing funding supports for using and enhancing public spaces as the tourism season approaches.
“With the Northern Relief Road just over a year away I believe now is the time to look at all options for our town centre. The new road will divert significant traffic away from it, so it would seem like an opportune time to evaluate how this will impact on the town core. With our two main car parks only accessible from Mill Street it hardly makes sense for traffic from the Castlebar Road to be going up Bridge Street. 
“We should consider the traffic flows so it moves more effectively around the town rather than through the town. We also should be considering if we need to develop outdoor areas where we encourage markets and events,” Cllr Flynn said.
He cited the fact that Bridge Street effectively supports four lanes of vehicles – two traffic lanes and two parking lanes.    
“We have seen the positive impact on businesses at The Quay of the footpath realignment allowing them to expand outside. We also need to consider how we support the host of new local pop-up businesses selling homegrown and manufactured products without affecting established businesses in the same sphere,” Flynn continued.
He observed that whilst the Covid-19 impact ‘has been difficult, it has shown us that we need to start to think very differently’. “Westport has succeeded over the decades through brave and creative thinking. We cannot afford to stand still and continue to assume that what worked in the past will work in the future. Other towns have started the shift towards making people and the environment the priority over cars and trucks. Now is the time for Westport to be brave and ensure we prepare for the future,” he said.

Grants for outdoors
CLLR Flynn also highlighted the availability of the county council’s Outdoor Seating and Accessories for Tourism and Hospitality Business Grant for costs of up to €4,000.  
“I went through the application and while there are 30 questions to respond to, most are very simple. The really important thing to keep in mind is that any money spent going back to April last year can be included in the claim,” he explained.
He added that for ‘any business looking to extend their outside area for hospitality it is an ideal way to have a significant part of the cost funded’.
“Just a reminder that you can also secure a parking space or other public space by applying to the council for a license. The maximum cost is €125 for the year if using a car-parking spot and this includes the planters which the Council will provide. Closing date for applications not until the end of September but now is the time to get working on it,” Cllr Flynn added.
Speaking also, Helen Gavin, the President of Westport Chamber of Commerce, said her organisation was working on a number of initiatives to enhance outdoor spaces and support businesses reopening. The plans will be announced in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mayo County Council confirmed that there had been 73 expressions of interest in the Outdoor Seating and  Accessories Grant Scheme since it reopened last week.
“The Public Realm can be utilised to help support businesses to trade outdoors over the coming months with all supporting,” the spokesperson said.