Historic meeting to decide on the Gate
Fiona Magennis on the meeting that will decide the fate of the Gate
A decision on whether or not to close the historic Laurence Gate to traffic once and for all will be decided at a special meeting this week.
Pressure has been mounting to close the historic structure to vehicular traffic and protect it from further damage following a number of strikes from lorries last year.
Plans to close the gate to traffic were originally mooted back in 2012 when a report from the council concluded the gate could be closed to traffic provided traffic flow along Shop Street was reversed to cater for traffic which previously cam into the town via the gate.
However, following a public consultative process after a review of the traffic management options in the town, it was clear that more work was needed to get broad agreement from stakeholders and the traffic management plan was ultimately shelved.
Instead, the council opted to introduce a one way system through the gate.
At the time, The Chamber of Commerce raised concerns that shoppers would opt for alternative centres if excessive limitations were placed on private cars.
A revised traffic management proposal to enable the closure of St Laurence’s Gate to vehiculat traffic went on public display in November last year following renewed calls from the local ‘Close The Gate’ pressure group set up to campaign for the permanent closure of the 13th century barbican, and local councillors.
The revised plan included the reversal of one way traffic on Jim Garry Way and the lower part of Francis Street, the reintroduction of two way traffic on Francis street and the reversal of one way traffic on Oulster Lane and Sandyford Terrace.
A total of 102 submissions from the public and representative groups were received.
The majority were from interested local parties, although some were received from as far away as America. A report from the council on the submissions received notes that there is widespread support for closing St Laurence's Gate with reasons given including protection of cultural heritage, the protection of the fabric of the structure, tourism potential and the revitalisation of Drogheda.
Others are supportive of the closure in principle subject to a satisfactory traffic management plan. The report states: ‘Traffic management is the key issue and this report will therefore concentrate on traffic related issues. However, in making a decision on the gate’s closure the benefits that will undoubtedly accrue to Drogheda from the closure of the gate should be considered along with traffic management implications.
Issues raised in the submissions included a call for all clutter, poles, railings and traffic signs to be removed and for no street furniture, seats etc to be allowed after the gate closes.
There were also concerns that pedestrians were not adequately catered for with problems at Francis Street, the Francis Street/Chord Road junction and the Palace Street Crossing as well as calls for more footpaths and traffic calming measures and that Chord Road residents between Francis Street and Oulster’s Lane will have a circuitous route from the northern direction.
There were a number of objections raised to reinstating two way traffic on Francis Street and concerns about increased traffic flow in a number of other areas including on Jim Garry Way, William Street, Peter Street and Sunday’s Gate in the vicinity of the school.
There were also calls to implement the plan on a short term trial basis first.
The OPW also expressed their concerns about the recent strikes to the gate and said they would like to action on the recommendation that height barriers be installed as a matter of urgency. They believe that the optimum solution longterm is the complete closure of the archway to traffic.
The report notes that such barriers would have an adverse visual impact on the of the protected structure but said that in the absence of agreement to close the gate to vehicular traffic this option would have to be examined ‘as a matter or urgency’.
Key points of the plan
* Francis Street will not revert to two-way traffic on part of Francis Street as proposed and instead it is proposed to reverse the current one way traffic direction over the entire street, with traffic travelling down Francis Street instead of up.
* Allowing vehicles access the Laurence Shopping Centre (Palace Street) car park from a northerly direction was considered but this is not being put forward due to concerns about the operation of the junction at Jim Garry Way. However, the report says the matter can be revisited later after the new junction layout has been in operation for sufficient time to allow is efficiency to be assessed.
* The new traffic plan is not ‘set in stone’, according to the report from the council, and the construction of the PANCR will, in the future, allow more radical solutions to town centre traffic by enabling, for example, restrictions to be placed on HGV traffic.
* The traffic flow on Jim Garry Way will also be reversed - it is noted in the report that reversing traffic on the new link road will complicate the William St/King St/Jim Garry Way junction.
* Sandyford Terrace will remain as is which traffic flow will be reversed on Oulster’s Lane. Traffic flow will also be reversed on the Chord Road from its junction with Sandyford Terrace to Francis Street.
* The proposed changes will enable implementation of improved facilities for pedestrians accessing the town through the Gate.