TENTATIVE negotiations are underway to provide the people of Thurles with a long-awaited Town Park, which could form part of a wider facelift for the town along with a completely new-look Liberty Square.
Thurles Town Manager Matt Shortt said negotiations are at a sensitive stage with local landowners regarding the development of a park to rival that of Templemore’s or Rathdowney’s. It’s understood the Park could include a green area and children’s play area, wetland, along with a car park and other amenities. Councillors said the Park was a priority for the Council and would be fitting legacy for Thurles before the abolition of the Council in 2014. Cllr John Kenehan said it’s now time to upgrade the Square to provide the kind of shopping experience the people of Thurles deserve. “Thurles has a population of about 7,000, with a wider hinterland of around 35,000. There are plans to pedestrianise the Square. Before we move into the new era (of local government reform), we would ask, is there money to upgrade the Square, for a more modern version of of the town? Thurles is at the centre of Ireland. People want an excellent retailing experience they can enjoy.” There should be a “new look for Thurles in the new century.” Retailers would benefit from the increased footfall of between 10% and 20%, added Cllr Kenehan.
The refurbishment of Liberty Square would involve new trees, street furniture, shop fronts, paving, and signage, to enhance the centre of town, and make it more accessible for visitors. Cllr Kennedy any revamp should include the Chamber of Commerce, and money raised in Thurles should be spent here in the next two years, before the Council is abolished. Cllr Jim Ryan said Liberty Square “badly needs an injection of life.” The farmers’ market, and food and craft markets, should come on board. “Liberty Square is crying out for something like this,” said Cllr Ryan.
Cllr Michael Grogan said people need some attraction to draw them into the Square or they will go shopping in the bigger out-of-town centres. Cllr David Doran said it was no secret that the Square was dying on its feet commercially. “Shops are fighting to keep their doors open.” The public would need to be consulted about any changes, added Cllr Doran.
Cllr Noel O’Dwyer said they shouldn’t go overboard with the re-design, ripping up surfaces and taking away car parking spaces. Cllr Evelyn Nevin said Thurles’ three markets should join forces to attract shoppers to Liberty Square. “The Town Council needs to sit down with the Markets and the Chamber of Commerce. We all know Liberty Square is dying. We could do something to make the Square more enticing,” said Cllr Nevin.
Town Manager Matt Shortt said plans to redevelop Liberty Square would dovetail nicely with those for a new Town Park. The two projects could be integrated together, he said. Councillors complained that they had to travel all the way to Templemore or Rathdowney so their children could enjoy a day out. Cllr Ryan said the people of Thurles are crying out for a park.
Negotiations are at a very tentative stage, and for that reason, management could not comment on how far progressed the plans are, said Mr Shortt. Management should know by the New Year if those negotiations are successful.
Cllr Doran said it would be fitting legacy for the Council to have the Town Park finished before 2014: a park would cost little to maintain in the long term. Cllr Grogan said they should aim to have a park nicer than Rathdowney’s: “we will have the best park in the country.”