O’Connell Street parklet gave very little value to taxpayers

The O’Connell Street parklet which is set to be removed.

IMPORTANT lessons need to be learned by Limerick City and County Council in terms of value for taxpayers’ money.

That’s according to Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan, who was commenting on the Council’s plans to remove a parklet on O’Connell Street, which cost €78,501 to install last summer.

The parklet will be removed as part of revitalisation plans for the city’s main street when Level 5 Covid restrictions are eased to allow non-critical construction projects to proceed.

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“Spending over €78,000 on a parklet only for it to be dismantled less than a year later is not acceptable. I could maybe stand over the cost if the parklet wasn’t earmarked for removal after just ten months,” Cllr Sheehan told the Limerick Post.

Limerick City and County Council spent €121,876 on two parklets in the city centre last year.

The second parklet on Catherine Street cost a further €43,375.

In contrast, Cork City Council spent €9,500 on its first parklet in front of the Cork Flower Studio on Douglas Street in 2019. Ten further parklets are now to be installed across Cork city centre at a cost of €25,000 each.

Limerick City and County Council said that it believes comparing the Cork and Limerick costs is misleading and that comments which do so are “disingenuous”.

The local authority also stated that it stands over the costs of the parklets, as good value for money when all aspects of construction, health and safety and public liability are taken into account.

However, Cllr Sheehan believes that if the Council could find a more cost effective mechanism for delivery they should be able to get “more parklets for our buck”.

“I would like to see the Council follow the example of Cork City Council and find a more cost effective mechanism for delivering parklets and issue an open call for parklet partners,” the City North representative said.

“While I understand the need for mass concrete on the O’Connell Street parklet or buildout due to heavy traffic, parklets by their very nature can be much simpler if they are located in less heavily trafficked areas.”

Cllr Sheehan had a positive reaction to the announcement from the National Transport Authority that an additional €350,000 would be provided for more parklets in Limerick City centre.

“We need to ensure that these are located in a better location than the O’Connell Street build out and that we get better value for money,” he declared.

Sinn Féin councillor Sharon Benson also hit out at the Council’s spending and said they were well aware when installing the O’Connell Street parklet that it would have to be removed.

“Why they didn’t look at a removable structure is beyond me and the excuse that they were under pressure simply doesn’t wash. When it comes to spending public money, the council needs to be more responsible and lessons need to be learned from this,” she added.

Cathaoirleach of Limerick’s Metropolitan District, Cllr Sarah Kiely said that it is her understanding that when the parklet is being removed all material used can and will be reused.

“I am not defending the cost as I also think it is expensive but it is far bigger that anything Cork has,” she said.