The absence of a secure car parking facility within close proximity to the soon to be constructed new Garda Barracks in Athlone must be addressed with immediate effect, Town Mayor, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, informed the Athlone Advertiser this week.
“Our new Garda Barracks in Athlone is still under construction. There is no doubt that when construction has concluded, the barracks will be a state-of-the-art building and what members of the local force require and deserve to conduct their daily work both effectively and efficiently. It is long overdue.
“The contracts were signed in April 2018 and it is fair to say that the project has had its fair share of problems and hold-ups along the way.
“However, the issues and delays experienced so far are nothing compared to the challenges which lie ahead, unless the issue of car parking provision is addressed.
“Athlone Garda Station is a District Head Quarters for the Midlands region. At any one time the barracks could have up to 30/35 personnel working there.
“Presumably, all of these individuals drive a car to work. There are a number of patrol cars also based at the station, approximately four to six in number at any one time.
“Despite the building being completely refurbished at huge expense, absolutely no consideration has been given to the provision of secure car parking facilities for staff, gardai, patrol cars or jeeps, or indeed the visiting public.
“In its present configuration only 10 cars can be securely parked on the grounds of the station and there is a good chance that if you had reason to call to the barracks you would not find parking anywhere convenient to the station.
“Worryingly, gardai are also telling me privately that on numerous occasions their cars have been damaged and tampered with on the street by people seeking retaliation, or in an effort to intimidate members of the local force. The gardai are right to raise this issue with me and so too are the people of Pearse Street on the westside of Athlone,” Cllr O’Rourke remarked.
The Town Mayor has called upon the Office of Public Works (OPW ) to acquire undeveloped lands beside the existing barracks site to enable conversion into a secure car parking facility.
“There are solutions, there are unused private grounds beside the barracks which the OPW have not fully explored despite my many attempts to get them to do so.
“My constituency office and business premises are located beside the barracks. I do not own either property or the lands connected to them so I have no direct say or stake holding in the adjacent lands.
“The OPW should acquire these undeveloped lands and by doing so it would secure enough parking for 40 cars.
“The westside of Athlone is ear-marked as the Tourism and Cultural Quarter for Athlone. An entire street overtaken by garda cars does not fit with this ambition. Businesses need car parking spaces for their clients – whether they are hairdressers, restaurants, estate agents or even the post office.
“As the OPW was the developer they were not required to go through the normal planning process. If this was anyone else, there would have been a car parking requirement imposed on them by the local authority as part of their planning permission.
“Steps should be taken now before the contractors move off site later this summer to secure the necessary ground and provide the badly needed car parking facilities,” the Town Mayor concluded.