Front Centre Nicholas O’Kane, senior planner; Eoin Doyle, Director of Services; Trevor Smith (FG), chair of the Ballyjamesduff MD; Eamonn Monaghan and Frank Cooney, architects; with elected members, MD engineers and staff at the newly refurbished Courthouse in Ballyjamesduff.

Pedestrian zone among Ballyjamesduff plans

DRAFT Strategy to bring more people to town

Ambitious new plans for the redevelopment of Ballyjamesduff could involve the pedestrianisation of one of the town’s main thoroughfares.

Under proposals outlined in the soon-to-be-published Regeneration and Development Strategy, Market Street would be closed off to traffic and given back as a pedestrian friendly ‘public realm’.

But the move could prove controversial, according to some local councillors, and run contrary to other local desires for Ballyjamesduff, such as the provision of more parking spaces in a town that already has more than 530.

Details of the substantial 160-page draft plan were unveiled to elected members of the local Municipal District last Monday. It was drawn up following a public consultation process in early August.

Meeting in the newly refurbished Courthouse building, councillors for the Ballyjamesduff area received a presentation from Eamonn Monaghan of Keys and Monaghan Architects, and Frank Cooney of Cooney Architects.

The council’s own senior planner, Nicholas O’Kane, explained how the strategy was targetted towards identifying and prioritising projects that could regenerate Ballyjamesduff town centre.

Mr Monaghan noted that the plan considers three essential elements - people, places, and processes - the latter being the ideas put forward at the end.

He welcomed how, at a national level, policy is being driven towards rejuvenating rural towns and villages. “Money follows policy,” he said in relation to the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF).

Mr Monaghan showed councillors how Ballyjamesduff has developed - from a rare Taylor and Skinner road map dating back to 1777 to modern day - with little change within the town core since 1954 except for the spread of housing.

He pointed out however that 15% of properties within the town centre are currently vacant, compared to the national average of 11-30%.

Arising from the public consultation, aside from additional parking, locals wanted a new supermarket, a town trail, better access to public transport, and the redevelopment of the former Percy French Hotel.

Taking over, Mr Cooney said the overall plan was to encourage more people into the town. The consultants were proposing a number of radical investments, some of which are already in train, such as redevelopment of the Percy French Hotel.It is to be made into a community, tourism and business development hub with planning sanctioned last year. Funding is now being sought for the works to the iconic building, which that had lain derelict for more than 10 years.

Other proposals include an outdoor amphitheatre stage at the County Museum and a Story Telling Centre, both at the County Museum .

Other proposals, which Mr Cooney said would enhance what Ballyjamesduff has to offer, includea pocket park in the town centre, a walking trail with linkages to local amenity sites and schools and facelifts shopfronts.

He pointed to Virginia also, where he says Deerpark attracts close to 35,000 walkers per year, and he said of the ambition overall was to make Ballyjamesduff “stand out”.

The strategy was welcomed by the chair of the MD, Trevor Smith (FG). He said, while some elements were of concern to locals, primarily landowners, the prevailing feeling was one of “positivity”.

Cllr Shane P O’Reilly (Ind) warned about “invasive” planting, pointing to a situation that had developed in Mullagh. He said some plants introduced 15 years ago were now being taken out, and with difficulty.

Cllr TP O’Reilly meanwhile felt what was most effective in the plan were proposals that were “simple and effective”.

Cllrs Winston Bennet (FG) and Philip Brady (FF) also welcomed the plan.