Councillors have approved design plans for the final piece of the Ballymena Public Realm ‘jigsaw’ - the tranformation of Broadway.
The decision was made at committee level last week after members were given a presentation on the design proposal for a ‘canopy development’ at that site by consultants for the £4m Public Realm Scheme which, it was pointed out, is currently at the pre-construction stage.
Anthony McGuigan of Whyte Young Green said that while Broadway is currently “a traffic island with a bandstand surrounded on all sides by roads”, it was proposed to connect footpaths to the central island by putting paving on some of the surrounding roads, with the facility to close off roads if required “for a special occasion”.
Councillors were told that “maximising the usuable space” was key to the proposal which also included incorporating seating on the edges of the triangular shaped site which will be partially covered by a copper canopy providing up to four times more coverage than the current bandstand structure.
“There will always be somewhere to take shelter in the centre of the town,” said Mr McGuigan who described the proposed canopy development as “a functional feature using traditional materials”.
“The opportunity for lighting underneath will make sure it is not an area that will suffer from anti-social behaviour due to dark corners and making it the focus for the town,” he added.
Councillors also heard that such lighting could also be used to mark special occasions, for example, green lighting on St Patrick’s Day.
Seeking their views on the plans, Council Officer Sean Trainor described Broadway as the final piece of the Public Realm scheme “jigsaw”
Referring to design impressions of Broadway which were shown to the meeting, Mayor Audrey Wales said: “If it turns out that way it will look amazing. It looks more like a shared space with no raised areas to prevent wheelchairs from going right in to the bandstand”.
In response to a query from Cllr Jayne Dunlop, Mr McGuigan pointed out that the use of different surface colour and also the location of street furniture, such as benches, should off-set any potential conflict between vehicles and pedestrians as a result of ‘road paving’ at Broadway.
He also pointed out that all traffic lights will be completely upgraded as part of the scheme and, in response to a query from Cllr Paul Maguire, said that the proposed street lighting “is top of the range in terms of sustainability”.
While Cllr Declan O’Loan said he “endorsed the scheme as a whole”, he pointed out that “Broadway is an extremely important area”.
“The biggest difficulty is the traffic issue. It’s a very difficult space....The canopy is a crucially important design element. I hope you’ve got it right,” he said.
The committee went on to give approval for the proposed design to proceed on the proposal of Cllr Monica Digney, which will go the February meeting of Council for ratification.