cultural quarter swords

A new traffic system for Swords town centre could be on the cards as part of a €26 million development to provide a cultural quarter.

A meeting of Fingal County Council earlier this month heard from architect Fionnuala May who revealed that the project was still on target for a 2020 completion date.

Design documents are being drawn up and members of the public will have their say on the draft plans, which could include an underground car park, later this year.

The multi-million euro cultural ‘hub’ will house the new library and a theatre and will be linked to the civic offices and the restored castle via a pedestrianised plaza.

May revealed the progress made on the castle restoration including works to the chapel, the wall walks, the breach in the entrance fort and the east tower.

Hand rails will be provided along the wall walks to make it safer for public access and it is hoped the prop along the east tower can be removed following repair works.

In researching the project, May said the existing layout, including a “hidden” County Hall, was deemed to “reinforce barriers”.

She added: “The town centre is overwhelmed at times by high volumes of traffic. We want to create a distinct urban identity … to reinforce the castle as both a focal point and a backdrop to the town.

“The street can expand and become a more significant space to have events. We need to look at traffic issues … diverting some of it away. Being able to design roads so we can close access for major events.”

Further demolition work is planned along North Street and once completed it will provide a pedestrianised space linking Swords Castle, the court house, the cultural centre and the civic offices.

Cllr Matt Waine (SP) described the project as “impressive” and “striking” adding: “I’ve no doubt the benefit of this for the community will be a legacy for years to come.”

Cllr Joe Newman (Ind) said the neglect of the castle was the biggest local issue raised on the doorsteps when he canvassed in the last local elections. He said: “I’m really pleased to see how far it’s advanced.”

Cllr Darragh Butler (FF) also heaped praise on what he described as a “fantastic” project. But he cautioned: “Please don’t do anything about closing off the traffic before May next year [local elections] because that is going to be a contentious one.”

Councillors also urged that the castle become a starting point for a heritage trail along the Ward river extending through River Valley to St Margaret’s and back through Mooretown to the Broadmeadow estuary and Lissenhall.