Young people take part in the onsite design workshop on the brewery site
Plans for a long-awaited skatepark in Kilkenny City took a step in the right direction this week, with local councillors agreeing to begin the process to appoint a design consultant.
The facility looks set to be a ‘streetscape-style’ park as part of a youth area on the former brewery site, between the River Breagagh and the new St Francis Bridge.
At a full council meeting on Monday, senior engineer Tony Lauhoff updated the members on the project, which has been the subject of extensive consultation with local youth and skater groups. He said that the proposed location had received a positive response from the young people, and it fitted their needs, including ease of access, shelter, passive surveillance and public lighting.
A number of workshops and meetings were held with over 200 youngsters and interested parties, culminating in a design workshop on the Brewery Site, facilitated by Spanish urban design architects. It allowed the skaters to familiarise themselves with the site and to consider how the site could be developed as an inclusive youth space.
Welcoming the update, Cllr Andrew McGuinness thanked Mr Lauhoff, his team, and all who had engaged with the process both recently and over the years.
"I started on Kilkenny Borough Council about 14 years ago and this was one of the first issues I ever spoke of - and it was an issue a long time before that," he said.
He said there was a sense among some that they had ‘failed’ previous generations who had long called for the facility to be provided.
"They may have moved on now or are older, and may not skate anymore, but there is still a desire to see it there," he said.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan also welcomed the news, notwithstanding concerns he had previously expressed over the proposed location. He said it was very important that the council continue to provide spaces, even incorporating small skating features into existing facilities such as playgrounds.
Cllr Breda Gardner asked if the public consultation included for an indoor skatepark possibility, given equipment had already been acquired by a local group. She said she thought an outdoor skatepark was 'wonderful' but had concerns given the low height of the bridge.
The meeting heard that the skating is in a way generational, and the current crop of skaters are interested in outdoor skating, which incorporates 'cityscape' elements in design.
The item was proposed by Cllr David Fitzgerald, and got the full backing of the members. Mr Lauhoff said that Kilkenny Recreation & Sports Partnership and the council, with the support of Sport Ireland, will now look to appoint a design team to the project in early 2018. He said they intend to further build on positive engagement during the detailed design process.
“I think it’s important there should be ongoing engagement with the youth community during the detail design process,” he told councillors
“It should be an ongoing process.”