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The growing interest in 'Parklets' throughout Europe and locally in Dundalk and Belfast has seen Newry and Armagh MLA Liz Kimmins call for a pilot scheme to roll out the initiative in Newry.

What is a Parklet you might ask. Well the Oxford dictionary states it is "a small seating area or green space created as a public amenity on or alongside a pavement, especially in a former roadside parking space." Typically they are placed in a parking space outside a bar or cafe and give people the chance to dine in the fresh air while enhancing the streetscape and making it more 'people first'. They are popular throughout Europe and not just in warm countries. 

A pilot Parklet scheme in Crowe Street, Dundalk. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A pilot Parklet scheme in Crowe Street, Dundalk. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic rethinking the outdoor environment has become essential. At present Dundalk has two parklets, one in Clanbrassil Street and one on Crowe Street.

Speaking about her suggestion Ms Kimmins said “A Parklet scheme can temporarily turn a parking space into an outdoor area to help local businesses like cafes with physical distancing.

“A pilot scheme in Belfast has begun in Belfast and this week I again encouraged the Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon to work with councils across the north to see about rolling this initiative out.

“In my own area in Newry I know of some businesses who have already expressed their interest in such a scheme and local businesses outside of Belfast should be able to partake in this pilot as well.  

 “Of course, in order for such schemes to truly work requires proper consultation and engagement with local businesses and all relevant stakeholders.

“It's vital that we help our local towns and businesses come out of COVID-19 on a strong footing and if successful, parklets could be a big boost to Newry once it is safe to go out to cafes and restaurants once more.”

Stockholm is a trailblazer at present with the initiative and Paris has announced that it is planning to remove 70,000 parking spaces with the opportunity to reuse some of them as parklets. Outdoor seating leads to inventive ways of keeping warm and dry with awnings, large umbrellas and heating all potentially in use.

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