It appears that the centre of Mullingar will be a building site in the run up to Christmas after it emerged this week that the €3m enchancement programme for the town is set to begin a month late and will last three months longer than previously expected.
Responding to a query from the 'Westmeath Examiner' this week about when the town enhancement scheme would begin, the council revealed it is “expected” that the works will commence in August, a month later than previously stated.
The council also revealed that the works are expected to take nine months, when previously it had been estimated the enhancement would be completed within six months.
Speaking to the 'Westmeath Examiner' this week, businessman Des Walsh, who is also a member of the Mullingar Town Team and lives in the centre of the town, said the council had not informed the business community that the works were delayed or that the estimated time for completion had been extended by three months.
Mr Walsh, whose family have traded in Mullingar since 1899, says if the work continues in the run up to Christmas, the busiest time of the year for retailers, there will be “bloody murder”.
“It's a major shock. When this thing came up 12 months ago we went through the whole thing with the council and the idea was that it would take roughly six months to do the whole works.
“The one thing we did stress to the council all along was that there can be no works on the street in the month of December. It's the busiest time of the year.”
In early November after Westmeath's county councillors had approved the plan, Mr Walsh wrote to the council with a list of questions relating to the timetable of the project and other details. Nine months on, he says he is still waiting for his queries to be answered.
“The one thing that we stressed to the various guys that we met was that the main street has to be kept open for business for the month of December. We were saying ‘from half way through November you should be packing up and clearing the place so traffic can move as normal for Christmas’.
“We can't afford to lose the Chrismas business. Business is bad enough as it is.
“At the moment because of the weather - and I don't blame people - no-one is coming into town. Business has been diabolical for the month of June.
“Now are they going to have the streets all dug up over the months of Christmas?”
The 'Westmeath Examiner' sent a follow up query to the council about what plans it has to alleviate the impact of the enchancement project in the lead up to Christmas, but at the time of writing had not received a response.
The council's full statement read:
“The successful contractor has been notified and it is expected that the works will commence in August 2018. The works will involve the following elements.
· Install traffic signals at the junction of Castle Street, Pearse Street and Church Avenue with improved pedestrian facilities.
· Redesign the junction of Mount Street, Oliver Plunkett Street, Martins Lane, and Pearse Street.
· Widen footpaths along Mount Street from the junction at Blackhall and create a one way system in a northerly direction. This will allow the construction of a larger plaza at the Market Square.
· Redesign the junction of Oliver Plunkett Street, Blackhall Place, Dominick Street and Mary Street. This will allow for the construction of a larger plaza at Dominic Square.
· Redesign the junction of Dominick Place, Grove Street, and Blackhall roundabout including the reversal of the traffic flow to a southerly direction along Dominick Place.
· The provision of new street furniture, soft landscaping and trees
· Redesign the junction of Dominick Street and Railway Row
· Installation of new route signage and street lightin
“The paving of the above junctions and plazas will be a combination of different stone types that take account of the access of pedestrians, mobility impaired persons and service vehicles. All stakeholders will be consulted regarding the contractors work schedule.
“Westmeath County Council in association with the contractor will endeavour to minimise disruption to business, pedestrians and traffic during the works.
“The works are expected to be completed within 9 months.”