A previous artist's impression of what the enhancement at O'Neill's Corner and Sean Costello Street might look like.

Pedestrianisation of Sean Costello Street to proceed

At their first meeting of the New Year, members of Athlone-Moate Municipal District decided today (Monday) to back a recommendation to fully pedestrianise Sean Costello Street as part of the next phase of the street regeneration scheme for Athlone.

Director of Services, Barry Kehoe, told the meeting that it is hoped to commence the Part 8 planning process for the scheme in the second quarter of this year, and that it would probably be "late 2022 or early 2023" before the project is fully completed.

Senior Planner, Ben Palmer, working on behalf of McAdam Design, the Belfast-based consultants to the project, gave a detailed presentation to today's meeting in which he said three separate traffic scenarios had been examined for the next phase of the Athlone streetscape works, which include Mardyke Street, part of Sean Costello Street to the junction of Dunnes Stores and Pump Lane.

The three scenarios were leaving the existing traffic system in place, pedestrianising Mardyke Street or pedestrianising Sean Costello Street. "The pedestrianisation of Mardyke Street would have the greatest impact, so our recommended scenario, having carefully examined all three options, is the closure of Sean Costello Street to traffic," said Mr Palmer.

He added that there was "a real opportunity" to soften the visual aspect of the street and to enhance biodiversity by the use of raised planters and a planting programme to take account of the changing seasons. He also said lighting would be "a key aspect" and that play areas for children should be incorporated into the design "as a means of encouraging families to come into the town centre and spend some quality time there."

In an effort to support local businesses on the street, Mr. Palmer said there could be "kiosks and markets" and he outlined that the plan would allow access for emergency and service vehicles on Sean Costello Street, although he added that service vehicles "should be time restricted."

Among the councillors who gave their backing to the pedestrianisation plan were Cllr Louise Heavin, who described it as "a great scheme," Cllr Frankie Keena, Athlone Mayor, Aengus O'Rourke and Cllr John Dolan, who said that the proposal to enhance Church Street had been met with plenty of opposition when it was first mooted, but had turned out to be one of Athlone's most successful ever projects.

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