Cavan Town centre to be transformed
“We require an attractive town centre. When people come into the county, they are not just coming to a hotel – they also desire to be part of the space that is Cavan Town.”
Those were the words of Brendan Jennings, director of services, Cavan County Council, speaking about a major new plan to transform Cavan Town centre to make it more attractive to tourists.
He outlined the vision to elected members at the Cavan Belturbet Municipal District meeting last Friday afternoon and councillors gave their unanimous backing to the plans.
Cavan County Council has secured funding totalling €750,000 from various streams to transform the area in and around the Town Hall.
The plans are set to be delivered as part of Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Destination Towns’ initiative, which aims to boost the attractiveness and tourism appeal of major towns nationwide.
The refurbishment at the intersection of Town Hall Street and Farnham Street is part of a wider project aimed at rejuvenating the historic part of Cavan Town, while promoting pedestrian access to its central core.
“We appointed consultants to look at the area around the Town Hall – the same team that is working on the Abbeylands project - and they were familiar with the space in question,” said Mr Jennings.
The existing public toilet block at the Town Hall is set to be demolished to make way for an outdoor performance space; the rose garden is being extended and 15 parking spaces relocated. An integrated pedestrian crossing point is set to be installed adjacent to the Town Hall.
Mr Jennings revealed that the plan involves increasing the public realm in and around the Town Hall - narrowing the road space and giving more space back to the pedestrian.
New street furniture, signage, and a specially commissioned mural are also planned for the site.
Presenting the plan to members, Mr Jennings said the goal is to get tourists not just to visit but to stay here.
“That is the main focus of a Destination Town. Our aim and Fáilte Ireland’s aim is to make Cavan one of those, which can be promoted and marketed.
“For a destination town to have that brand, it has to be of a certain standard,” he explained.
“Residents of urban spaces need green and adaptable spaces and that is why Fáilte Ireland is getting behind this – Cavan needs to be a focal point in the Hidden Heartlands and part of Ireland’s Ancient East,” added the director.
Following public consultation, it was decided that the toilets at the rear of the car park are to removed and the public toilets upgraded at the Tesco carpark.
Fianna Fáil’s John Paul Feeley welcomed the plans as “broadly positive”. He said the Town Hall had been transformed by Cavan County Council funding of almost €1million and this project will be an opportunity to showcase it better.
“The space around it currently is not the most attractive,” he remarked.
Cllr Madeleine Argue said it was a “great plan”, but some people were annoyed that the public toilets will be removed.
“When the toilets in the Tesco carpark are upgraded and a guarantee that a care taker will be put in place, that would satisfy a lot of people,” she said.
“I support Brendan Jennings and his team – I have great confidence in them,” added Cllr Argue.
Fianna Fáil’s Patricia Walsh complimented Mr Jennings and his team for the “hard work” on the plan.
She said the councillors had all received e mails and calls about the toilets. “I thought they were not being used that much – obviously they are being used,” said the Cavan Town representative.
Cllr Walsh welcomed the fact that the toilets in the Tesco carpark are to be upgraded. “We have the funding now in place to revitalise our town and I would support the initiative,” she said.
Fine Gael’s Peter McVitty said he had no difficulty with the toilets being removed but expressed concern about parking spaces.
“I do have a problem with the parking. People are concerned that parking is going to be taken away across the road from the Town Hall. I understand that spaces from 19 to 22 are going to be taken away from the carpark – so that is a loss of four spaces there, plus the spaces outside the Town Hall itself,” he said.
He highlighted the potential to provide more parking spaces in the area from Ashe Street back down to Town Hall Street with the co-operation of a private property owner.
Independent councillor Brendan Fay also supported the plans. He said people are happy that the Tesco carpark toilets are being refurbished and most people are excited about the Town Hall transformation project.
Responding, Mr Jennings said there were concerns about the existing toilets – most people don’t go near them and they are not fit for purpose.
He revealed that Cavan County Council conducted research on public toilet facilities and found that not many towns of a similar size have such facilities and generally the need is catered for by the private sector.
Mr Jennings said a commitment was given during the consultation phase to upgrade the toilets in the Tesco carpark and maintain same.
The director conceded that parking is an issue in rural regional towns like Cavan, both for people coming into the town and businesses in the town.
“Obviously, as part of any regeneration project in the town, there will be an impact on parking, both positive and negative. We put a big investment into the Abbeylands project and part of that was to study parking in the town,” he said.
“There are more than adequate parking supplies in Cavan Town. As we all know, when we go to Dublin, we have no problem walking. When it comes to Cavan, we want to park on the street. You and I are all the same – it is part of what we have become used to,” continued Mr Jennings.
He agreed that the bulk of the carparks are on the other side of the town.
“We should not let a few car parking spaces on Town Hall Street prevent a project of this scale going ahead,” said Mr Jennings.
The director pointed that there are 15 parking spaces being changed in total – some from the carpark in Town Hall Street are being replaced on Farnham Street and one further up Townhall Street and the remainder in the multi-storey carpark. “There will be no reduction in car parking spaces in the town and there are more than adequate spaces in the town. That I suppose may not sit well with some people who operate in the area around the Town Hall and Town Hall Street,” said Mr Jennings.
“I am very much recommending that we deliver this project as proposed and try and improve the parking options in the town going forward,” he added.
In relation to the private spaces in the area surrounded by Ashe Street and part of Main Street referred to by Cllr McVitty, Mr Jennings said: “We have limited power as to what happens in there. It is very much a dead space in there and is not being used. That area is mostly owned by one property owner – we have had various discussions with them and they engaged with us as part of the Abbeylands Development to see what we are doing.”
The development of that site, the director said, is a matter for the owner subject to the necessary planning consents.
“Ideally the private sector will do something with that space, which the town needs, that works from their perspective and also works financially for them.
“It’s about timing and getting the right project and getting the right partners to tie in with them – that is the body of work they have to do – I know they are determined to do something in there,” revealed Mr Jennings.
“In the interim, there is space in there and there is parking in that space – not owned or controlled by Cavan County Council,” he added.
The councillors sanctioned the necessary part eight planning approval for the Town Hall development plan.
Meanwhile, Cavan Town’s main street will temporarily transform into a pedestrian-friendly zone for the next two weekends.
The ‘Streets Ahead Cavan’ pilot pedestrianisation scheme will make two stretches of streetscape free of traffic from 7-11pm on Friday and Saturday evenings and from 3-9pm on Sundays on the last two weekends of July.
The local authority say the partial pedestrianisation is a trial weekend initiative aimed at creating a welcoming, vibrant, and safe atmosphere for those enjoying retail, outdoor hospitality, and other socially distant activities in the county town.
The pedestrianised area stretches from Main Street’s junction with Thomas Ashe Street as far as the junction with Town Hall Street, and from the top of Bridge Street to the bottom of the Fairgreen Hill.