Public meeting on friday over controversial oneway plan

A public meeting is to be held in the Friary Hall on Friday evening ahead of a vote by councillors on Monday on controversial plans to develop a new one-way system in the town.

The dramatic proposals, revealed by the Westmeath Independent this week, involve the routing of east-west traffic down Griffith Street, The Strand and Custume Place and back onto Athlone bridge.

It’s part of a wider plan to regenerate Church Street and improve its appearance, in part by reducing the traffic levels on the street.

Having first briefed councillors last Friday, Westmeath County Council is expected to ask the seven members of the Athlone Municipal District to sanction the controversial scheme at its monthly meeting on Monday. It means councillors will be asked to approve the concept just ten days after it was first raised.

The relevant item on Monday’s Athlone Municipal District agenda reads: “To consider a recommendation to proceed with Environmental Street Enhancement under the EU Urban Designated Fund from Costume Place to Griffith Street including elements of the Waterfront Strategy”.

An application for funding has to be made by the end of the month and the councillors are under pressure to vote on the plan this Monday.

The council is hoping to obtain some €1.5m in funding from the EU fund, matched by €1.5m garnered from its own resources and through national grants.

Up to 100 people attended a meeting last night (Wednesday) called by The Griffith Street, Wolfe Tone Terrace and The Strand residents association. The meeting was unanimous in its opposition to the proposal and a number of business people from Church Street, although open minded about the benefits of a one-way system, also spoke against this particular one-way proposal.

Westmeath County Council Director of Services Barry Kehoe attended the meeting and advised locals that the proposal was part of a wider scheme to enhance Church Street.

He said the new one-way system would last for two years, a period which would allow the council to complete negotiations with CIE over the Railway Field Road. This is a separate plan to widen the road between St Vincent’s Hospital and The Crescent to facilitate more traffic and which would be part of a permanent one-way system.

The Griffith Street, Wolfe Tone Terrace and The Strand residents association is now inviting all seven local councillors to a specially-convened public meeting in The Friary hall at 7pm on Friday.

All are welcome and organisers have stressed the importance of public support in advance of the councillors’ vote on Monday.