Friday 23 August 2019

Time to show your love for Drogheda

Make or break time for the 'Love Drogheda' campaign as committee issues rallying call to town

The Love Drogheda logo that needs your support
The Love Drogheda logo that needs your support

Alison Comyn

'We need to put our gameface on, get out there and move forward as a town - it's up to us, as no one else is going to do it.'

That was the rallying call for action from Love Drogheda chairman Geoff Fitzpatrick, seeking volunteers to get the Business Improvement District (BID) proposal across the line.

It is reaching make or break time for the project, which hopes to generate revenue from ratepayers through a levy, which in turn will inject life back into our community.

'Our overall objective is to make Drogheda a great place to work, live and socialise, but our success is entirely dependent on collaboration with Drogheda's business community, Louth County Council and voluntary organisations,"'said Geoff.

'We believe that by working together we can create a very positive and progressive momentum that will get stronger over the five year mandate, creating a vibrant, buzzy, enterprising city.'

The enthusiasm and passion is evident, but everyone involved in the proposal knows it is an uphill battle.

There were just a handful of people in the audience of the Town Hall meeting in the Westcourt Hotel on Wednesday who were not directly linked to the committee.

Preaching to the converted is easy - it's getting the 50 volunteers needed for the canvassing, and the 500 to 1,000 businesses on board, that is the challenge.

'Volunteering alone won't attract investment,' adds Geoff, who runs a business Fitz Scientific in the town.

'We need the volunteers to convince everyone of the importance of this, and for everyone to realise this is our best chance at making Drogheda a better place for all.'

The results of a public survey on Drogheda formed part of the presentation and the results were stark, if nothing new.

Love Drogheda is hoping to obtain a Purple Flag accreditation which allows members of the public to quickly identify town and city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.

But with almost of third of respondents citing safety, security and crime concerns one of Drogheda's main weaknesses, there is work to do.

Almost as many people identified Cleanliness, Dereliction and lack of Retail as another failing.

'We got 952 responses, with 72% female, so there is a bias,' explains Geoff, 'and we know that during the day, the reason 65% of those taking the survey come into town for shopping, but at night that turns to 77% for pubs, with the average spend doubling from €50 to €100 after 8pm.

'It's the gap between when the shops close at 6pm and people start going to the pub or restaurants at 8pm that we need to see improvements.'

There was nothing really new in the results - we even know already that our heritage is our strongest asset - but committee member John Shanahan says this project has to get across the line if any changes are ever to be made.

'In fact, I think it is our people who are our greatest asset, but if we can become one of the 15 other Heritage towns in Ireland, and one of the 18 others to have a Purple Flag, it would make a huge difference,' he said.

The town will be assessed for a Purple Flag on August 9, which is the eve of the Fleadh.

Purple Flag accredited towns and cities have to prove they are welcoming to everyone, offer safe ways for visitors to travel home after dark and provide a good mix of venues.

Purple Flag towns and cities benefit from more visitors, lower crime and anti-social behaviour and improved perceptions of centres.

The next steps for the BID proposal are for the working group to write to Louth County Council to proceed with the plebiscite on July 30.

A plebiscite is like a referendum, where a vote is taken to change the constitution.

Ballot papers will be posted to ratepayers on August 26, who will vote YES or NO, sign, date and return the paper.

It will be down to Louth County Council members to vote on the resolution, and at least one third must vote in favour for the resolution to pass.

'This must succeed, as collaboration is our only way forward,' adds Geoff.

He said: 'We're a community that have come together with a love and pride for Drogheda and we need this structure and plan to build for our future.'

If you would like to volunteer to help with Drogheda's future, the first training date will be in the Westcourt Hotel on August 1st between 7pm and 8pm.

The canvassing dates are Tuesday August 6tto Wednesday September 11.

The closing date for the plebiscite is September 19 at 5pm.

Drogheda Independent