Louth County Council progressing Laurence Gate plaza plans amid calls to open to public

It's hoped St Laurence's Gate could be opened to the public.

Alison ComynDrogheda Independent

The future goal of creating a plaza and public space in front of St Laurence Gate are progressing, with plans expected to be made before the end of the year.

Although a funding application for the ambitious project has been refused by the Heritage Council on a number of occasions, Louth County Council has set aside funds from it Capital Programme to allow for works.

In response to a query from Cllr Pio Smith, a brief update was given at the May meeting of Drogheda councillors, outlining the plan is still very much alive and part of the public realm vision the town.

“We have been working away on the St Laurence Gate Plaza plan and we're just completing the conservation points on that,” explained Olivia McCormack, Senior Executive Officer Placemaking and Physical Development Louth County Council. “Although we're not actually touching the gate itself, we do have to go departmental approval in relation to that as it will be extending from underneath the archway.”

The possibility of having St Laurence Gate opened to the public, even on a limited basis, was also raised at council level recently, when Cllr James Byrne asked for it to be re-examined.

“When I was Mayor of Drogheda, I met the chief executive exploring the possibility of actually reopening the gate itself and maybe commencing discussions with the OPW in the matter,” said Cllr Byrne.

And then a few months later, in December 2021, the Minister for the OPW visited the gate itself and I felt he was optimistic about possibly reopening it, even on a limited basis.”

He said that clearly significant investment was needed on the gate itself but, unfortunately, since 2021, there has been radio silence from the Minister and the OPW, so perhaps another query from the local authorities would be in order.

“As a destination town, the gate being opened could significantly improve tourism, where we could be up there with the likes of Kilkenny Castle,” he added. “The fact that work is progressing on plans for the plaza itself, it would be a good be time to start talking about opening the gate again to the public.”

Cllr Kevin Callan added his support to both suggestions of progressing plans for the gate, and indeed all heritage sites in the town.

"When you take Laurence Gate, Harty’s Cottage, or even Westgate House, there is so much heritage here, it's really important that we keep on top of all of it as best we can,” he told the members. “And I know we're always coming up against funding issues, but if Laurence Gate can be opened for the Arts Festival, it can be opened for ten times that amount during the year, and if the will is there, the OPW will do it for us".