The Chairman of Sligo Borough Council’s Access Committee Councillor Arthur Gibbons maintains that the excellent work carried out around the streets of Sligo in recent years is only a start. ‘I consider it an honour to chair the Access Committee as I consider it one of the most important of the Council’s committees, and we have a very busy programme of work. I see the remit of our committee to do all within our power to improve access to public and non-public spaces, and there are some real improvements we have delivered around Sligo.’
‘There is a sense of ambition and purpose to the Access Committee and everyone is committed to making a real change. There is a great cross-section of interest and expertise on the committee members representing the interests of local disability groups, including the blind and people using wheelchairs. But the committee isn’t simply about people acting as advocates for their own areas; there is genuine team-work and a real sense of pride in delivering meaningful change for the whole community.
I have been Chair of the Access Committee since 2004, and I think we have made a difference. One of the most important areas of work discussed at our meetings is pedestrian crossings, and our committee has overseen the provision of new crossings and the upgrading of existing crossings by laying tactile paving. Sligo has many narrow streets and is often very busy with traffic, it can be a very challenging environment and it is essential that high quality crossing points are provided where they are most needed.
In 2008 Sligo Borough Council introduced a new pedestrian crossing at the very busy junctions of the Mall/Bridge Street, Teeling St/Abbey St and on O’Connell St/Tobergal Lane, New crossings were also provided on Hyde Bridge and on Markievicz Bridge. These are important as access is now provided from Hughes Bridge all the way to Doorly Park. These have been very well received both by local disability groups and the general public.
- Eugene O’Brien at one of the recently highlighted Disabled Parking Bays in Sligo
I think this point is very important, for while individual projects might be planned and coordinated by our Access Committee, the finished product benefits the wider community, and I think the recent works at Hyde Bridge bears this out.’
Another area where we have made significant progress is in the area of traffic management and parking. The driving and parking habits of a minority of drivers leave a lot to be desired, and we set about dealing with this problem by providing highly visible disabled parking bays with new signage to deter offenders. We also introduced a tow-away system, so if motorists take a chance to park illegally, there is a chance they will pay heavily for it.’
- Bob Murphy, PWDI and a member of the Access Committee avails of the new pedestrian crossing on Hyde Bridge
Senior Executive Engineer Anthony Skeffington concurs that the Access Committee has made an impact in a number of areas. ‘While the pedestrian crossings and disabled bays are probably the most high profile elements of the committee’s work, we also deal with issues such as installation of ramps, illegal street furniture, over-hanging bushes, and the use of footpaths as loading bays. Illegal parking can be a hugely difficult issue for people with disabilities, and through a combination of education and deterrence we will keep working at it until we get the message home.’
Mr Skeffington outlined that the Council enjoyed the support of the business community in carrying out the various works, and said value for money was always a major consideration. ‘The recent project at Hyde Bridge was funded by a grant of €50,000 from the Dorman Accounts Fund with additional funding from Sligo Borough Council’s Block Grant. The streetscape in this area has been transformed and has made this area more attractive and certainly more accessible.’
- Recently completed works at Hyde Bridge were funded by funds from the Dorman Accounts Fund and Sligo Borough Council
‘While traffic management is a major issue on a daily basis, we need the support of the general public in identifying traffic offenders, whether it is people parking on the footpath or parking illegally in disabled bays. Over a year ago we launched a ‘text alert’ facility to help counter this issue, and I would again ask people to report any problems to our dedicated text line - 087 7850566
‘One of the most important projects before the Committee is the construction of a new pedestrian walkway at Markievicz Bridge. This has been an issue for the Access Committee and indeed Sligo Borough Council, and given the foot-traffic on this bridge I think everyone is anxious to provide this facility as soon as possible. In terms of time-scale, the project will proceed to planning stage in the current year and we hope to make a submission for funding in 2011.’
- Impression of proposed pedestrian walk-way at Markievicz Bridge
Chairman of the Access Committee Councillor Gibbons commended the staff of Sligo Borough Council for carrying out the various projects with great professionalism. ‘I think we have a very good track record in terms of our work programme, and we still have much work to do in the years ahead.’
Members of Access Committee:
Back Left to Right - Councillor Arthur Gibbons (Chairperson), Tom Kilfeather (Director of Services), Councillor Matt Lyons, Anthony Skeffington (S.E. Engineer), Paula R. Gallagher (A/Director of Services) Front Left to Right - Eugene O’Brien and Bob Murphy of People With Disabilities Ireland.
Absent from Photo are Councillor Jude Devins and Councillor Marcella McGarry