A PROPOSED weather-proofed outdoor dining facility in Killarney town, which will be entirely funded by Fáilte Ireland at a cost of €604,550, has been formally approved by local councillors.
The pedestrianised development at Kenmare Place, which must remain in place for a minimum of five years, is one of 30 schemes selected nationally to share €9 million in grants and Killarney was successful in the bid it submitted.
50 per cent of the tables provided will be available for public use with the balance to be used by businesses in the immediate vicinity of Kenmare Place. The designated area will remain in public ownership at all times and the agreement with businesses will be subject to an annual review.
Construction work on the facility, which will have a retractable roof to enable access to outdoor dining for extended periods throughout the year, is expected to get underway in the coming weeks and it will ready for use by March or April of next year.
Kerry County Council have provisionally engaged with local businesses in terms of the management and upkeep of the area and any specific businesses allocated space there will also be required to maintain the public dining facilities as well as their own allotted space.
The entire operation will be subject to regular monitoring by the council in agreement with the businesses.
The works will include 620sq m of outdoor dining area which will be paved, landscaped and lit with 210sq m covered. There will be a 700mm boundary wall along the road edge with glass screening and two bus set-down bays will be provided on East Avenue Road with two 15-minute parking set-down bays in front of the Handy Stores.
A total of seven submissions were received during the public consultation process, including detailed correspondence from An Garda Siochana who observed that the plans would impact on traffic management and parking and that specific issue must be addressed in a tangible way to reduce any negative impact.
Gardai said if bus drivers continue the practice of parking outside hotels in the area to transfer passengers and luggage, traffic would be disrupted and the lack of parking for commercial vehicles is also a concern.
Council officials said, in response, that eight parking spaces would be lost but additional facilities with adequate capacity have been provided in the town. One dedicated bus set-down area and one bus set-down and loading bay would also be provided and arrangements will be put in place for deliveries at College Square which is traditionally used for that purpose.
During a debate on the proposals, at a meeting held at the ANAM Cultural and Arts Centre, councillors stressed that it was important to assure the public that the area will remain in public ownership at all times and that a collaborative approach between the businesses located there and the public had been agreed.
Concerns were expressed about the set-down area for buses, particularly with a number of hotels located in the immediate vicinity.
“There could be six or seven buses in that area at 9am at the height of the summer. We could be creating a monster and one set-down place in not the answer,” said Cllr Niall O’Callaghan who suggested that the OPW should be approached to see if access could be gained to car parking facilities it owns on the right hand side going down Ross Road.
“We don’t want a pile up of buses and cars and I don’t think this plan takes the buses into account. It’s the only flaw I see in the plan,” said Cllr O’Callaghan who suggested that the traffic island outside the Killarney Plaza Hotel should also be removed.
Cllr Brendan Cronin said it’s important to stress that the €604,000-plus cost of the development is being funded entirely by Fáilte Ireland with absolutely no cost to the council, the ratepayers or the people of Killarney.
“We are very fortunate. If Tralee or Listowel or Kenmare were offered this they would bite your hand off they would be so thrilled. It would be completely insane the let the money slip through our fingers,” he remarked.
Cllr Cronin said public accessibility must be guaranteed at the facility which will be shared on a 50-50 basis with the businesses in the area.
“If a family arrives there with a picnic basket, or burgers and chips, or a pizza or a takeaway coffee they must be granted access to the seated area,” he insisted.
Cllr Cronin said the situation regarding buses must be looked at all over Killarney and not just at Kenmare Place.
“Bus drivers in mainland Europe get off in designated areas, get their bags and walk. They don’t look to park up in the town centre,” he said.
Cllr Niall Kelleher agreed that provision must be made for buses and he suggested that one bus set-down area should be developed on the Plaza Hotel side as well as the other side of the dining area.
He said a big problem has also arisen in the town with regard to the lack of bins and litter disposal in Killarney and that will have to be factored in when the outdoor dining facility is opened as people can’t be leaving empty pizza boxes up on the tables.
“As it is, people are walking around the streets as it is asking where they can find a bin. If they do find them they are already full and the openings are too small for takeaway food containers,” Cllr Kelleher added.
Cllr Donal Grady said the project will have to be properly policed to ensure that buses don’t just stop in the middle of the road to leave off or pick up passengers as it would cause absolute chaos.
“There must be facilities for them to pull in,” said Cllr Grady who added that the protection of the existing right of way to and from Brewery Lane was also imperative.
Cllr Maura Healy-Rae said she was concerned that the plan will benefit just a few businesses but she was told the Kenmare Place location was the only place that fully met the strict Fáilte Ireland funding criteria.
“Businesses at the top of High Street or the bottom of New Street won’t benefit one bit from this. There needs to be something done, on a smaller scale, to ensure a level playing field,” she said.
Mayor Marie Moloney asked if Iarnród Éireann might be approached to determine if there could be coach parking facilities available in the vicinity of the Great Southern Hotel.
“It’s a great project for the town. We’d love to have seen it shared around more but Fáilte Ireland dictated the terms and, if we didn’t agree, we could have lost it,” she said.
Cllr Moloney said while there has been some concern expressed locally that only three businesses will benefit from the project, the area is also open to the public who can bring their own food and drink there and it will remain in public ownership.
“If people want to go into the Handy Stores to buy a paper and then sit down and read it in the outdoor dining area, they are entitled to do that,” added the mayor who said the necessary steps would have to be taken to ensure people don’t congregate in the area after the nightclubs close.
“The last thing we want is for the hotels to ring up to complain that the noise is keeping their residents awake,” she remarked.
Kerry County Council Director of Services, Charlie O’Sullivan, said there is a commitment to commence construction work before the end of the year and they hope to have it opened by March or April.
He said engineering consultants are being engaged to prepare a public realm plan for the entire town and the provision of bus parking will come under that remit.
The six councillors in attendance at the meeting voted in favour of the project and Cllr John O’Donoghue was absent.