Confirmation this week that Westmeath County Council has commenced work on an Urban Design and Regeneration Framework Plan for Athlone is a wholly positive development for the regional growth town as it aspires to attract inward industry investment and attain city status.
The framework will prioritise and plan for a ‘pipeline’ of projects which will re-image streets and reopen backlands to deliver a compact and smart growth-based approach to Athlone’s future regeneration.
The project will complement successful regeneration and placemaking interventions undertaken in Athlone, to date, and work in tandem with other approved Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF ) projects to realise Athlone’s full potential as a designated Regional Growth Centre.
Westmeath County Council has appointed Turley Planning Ireland Ltd, to lead a multidisciplinary team of specialists, to develop the framework, which is to be visionary, ambitious, and creative in the design of new propositions for Athlone’s urban core area as well as the emerging Tourism and Cultural Quarter to the west of the town.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Westmeath County Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr Frankie Keena, noted that the Urban Design and Regeneration Framework Plan would ultimately benefit Athlone and realise the regional growth town’s full potential.
“This is a unique opportunity to embrace the power of urban design and architecture in re-imagining the plan area so that it can ultimately realise its full potential as a designated Regional Growth Centre. Westmeath Council are excited to be working with Turley to create a Framework Plan for the future of the town and ultimately to build on the tourism and cultural assets of the town – west and east,” Cllr Keena asserted.
His thoughts were echoed by Mayor of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Cllr Liam McDaniel who stated that there was vast potential within the framework to further enhance the town’s rich heritage and culture.
“I am pleased to welcome members of the Design team to Athlone today as work commences on this exciting framework plan for the town. I am looking forward to seeing the conceptual placemaking and visioning briefs for strategic sites that have the potential to act as a catalyst for growth for our town.”
“Alongside identifying key structural improvements and providing detail on the proposed placemaking measures, there is fantastic potential through this framework to capitalise on Athlone’s heritage and culture, and attractive natural setting on Lough Ree,” Cllr McDaniel emphasised.
Turley Planning Ireland Ltd will provide multi-disciplinary specialist consultancy services to Westmeath County Council to undertake Urban Design and Regeneration Framework Plan for Athlone.
The Framework Plan is to be visionary, ambitious, and creative in the design of new propositions for Athlone’s urban core, setting out a Strategy for development and a ‘pipeline’ of projects to be implemented.
Efforts will initially focus on proposals regenerate the west side of town with an emphasis on key areas, such as Connaught Street, to improve the viability, attractiveness and liveability of the town centre.
The overall aim of the Council is to build on the tourism and cultural assets with the aim to unify the east and west of the town as a tourism destination, which will have significant benefits the entire community, including creating a town that caters to residents and visitors.
Continued on page 2
“Creating a prioritised works itinerary that will determine future funding requirements in terms of flagship projects, urban spaces, placemaking as well as critical infrastructure upgrades required to enable investment in urban development is vital in order to provide a catalyst for further investment in the area directly or indirectly,” Blathnaid Cox, Regeneration Project Manager, Westmeath County Council, commented.
Further commenting on the Framework Plan, Director of Services, Westmeath County Council, Deirdre Reilly, stated that the works will be extensive in nature with the potential to enhance tourism within the town a focal point.
“The project is set to fully enhance Athlone’s reputation as a town of best practice in placemaking. The three key aspects within the Framework will be: a Public Realm, Placemaking and Visioning Strategy, Urban Design Principles and a Backlands’ Strategy.
“The Framework Plan is extensive in nature and will consider a number of things including the re-opening backlands and reimagining our streets as well as building on the tourism and cultural assets of the town. This work indicates the intention to unify the east and west of the town as a tourism destination providing a wealth of benefits for the community of Athlone and the wider area.”
The regeneration project team will undertake a rigorous and integrated stakeholder engagement during the project, drawing on the knowledge of local stakeholders and residents to ensure the Framework is reflective and representative of the needs and wants of Athlone Town and its surrounding communities.