(L to R) Joe Boland (Kildare Co. Council, Director of Services – Environment), Grainne Shaffrey (Shaffrey Associates), Vivian Cummins (President, North Kildare Chamber of Commerce) and Patrick Shaffrey (Shaffrey Associates)
Despite the hot weather and the fact it was the start of the Bank Holiday weekend there was a great turnout of South Kildare business people at the Athy Enterprise Network/Chamber ‘First Friday’ meeting held on the 3rd June 2016 in the Clanard Court Hotel. Attendees, ranging from sole traders to Athy’s largest companies, were treated to a masterclass in Urban Design by Shaffrey Associates represented by the father and daughter team of architects, Patrick and Grainne Shaffrey respectively.
Joe Boland, Kildare Co. Council’s Director of Services – Environment, in introducing Shaffrey Associates explained that Kildare Co. Council is committed to a series of urban design and landscape improvement initiatives in South Kildare and the Heritage Town of Athy in particular. These ranged from the soon to be launched Emily Square and environs upgrade project where The Paul Hogarth Company, an international consultancy had been appointed to oversee the design process. Boland explained, “we need to put people at the heart of place making. Our aim is to create sustainable environments across a broad scale of projects, for people to enjoy and value, as places to live, work and visit. A public participation process for the Emily Square project will commence shortly and it is hoped that this will be done in a fun way that captures the interest and involvement of all residents and business owners.” He was pleased to add, “Athy businesses submitted the highest number of applications for the recent Shopfront Improvement Grants Scheme” and complemented the Athy Enterprise Network for its assistance in promoting the scheme in the town.
Grainne Shaffrey explained some of the criteria for assessing the successful design of urban environments and how, if this is done well, it can have huge psychological and commercial advantages for those who use such spaces. She paid a special tribute to the six separate urban spaces that made up what are collectively known as Emily Square, including the River Barrow quay behind the Courthouse and the area behind the Heritage Centre and Library facing towards the Carlow Road, She described these spaces, “as being of international significance and that Kildare Co. Council’s urban design project had the potential to act as a catalyst for regeneration as had happened in other, similar Irish towns such as Kells, Lismore and Clonakilty.
Shaffrey Associates outlined a series of possible projects that Kildare Co. Council are considering from new pedestrian links to the north of the town to more modest schemes of well-placed and designed street furniture such as seating and planting. These are currently in design development and Joe Boland hopes they will be presented at the September ‘First Friday’ as a first step in a consultation in prioritising the town’s favourite projects. Several attendees noted how the business community had a responsibility to get behind these town improvement schemes and help Kildare Co. Council by showing leadership in gaining support for them.
In concluding the meeting Athy-based [North Kildare] Chamber President, Vivian Cummins, complimented Grainne and Patrick Shaffrey and Joe Boland for the quality of the presentation and echoed the view of most attendees that “we could have listened to more for the entire afternoon”. The next ‘First Friday’ takes place on 1st July and will have a focus on Tourism in South Kildare with presentations on several new visitor attractions.