Naas coffee shops should stay open until 8pm to help address the impact of Covid-19 on businesses in the town.
Naas resident Elaine McHale who operates Home Interiors, an interior design service, says that being forced to live in our towns and depend on them “has caused us to look more critically at what our towns can or should provide and how they should support or quality of life”.
Ms McHale believes Naas faces huge challenges as a result of the virus, particularly in the hospitality sector.
She lived in Naas for two decades and has been involved in community initiatives over the years. She is currently involved in the Naas Access and Disability Group and the Naas Community Sponsorship Refugee Project as a volunteer.
Elaine also started a walking group six years ago — the Naas Carpe Diem Walkers. “It’s a community group focussed on wellness and camaraderie/sociability.
We do an off-road walking tour of Naas in the mornings followed by a tea and chat and it sets us all up for the day.”
Covid-19 also provides an opportunity to address what has been neglected and changes have been implemented elsewhere but not in Naas — but this can be done by making the town more people friendly as a place where people can relax and linger.
“We need to have access to takeaway coffee/tea whether that’s from mobile vans or coffee shops and attractive benches and picnic tables surrounded with trees in planters to add softness/interest. We can create a strong sense of belonging and place by making use of the space around the town to create attractive, comfortable, community spaces.
“Improving shop fronts and improving some of dilapidated town-centre buildings, will make the town a more attractive and welcoming experience for residents and visitors alike.”
Ms McHale says that coffee shops close by 5.30pm but if they stayed open later it would bring more life to Naas and they should remain open until 8pm.
Some many need incentive from Kildare County Council to do this but with so many people working or staying at home many are looking for a break from work or home in the evenings and it would provide much needed social interaction and benefit mental health.
She also said some coffee shops should dedicate time for those aged over 70. Other initiatives would be to provide seating at Naas town hall, remove graffiti, and apply a coat of paint to buildings in the town centre that look dilapidated.
The issue of signs need to be addressed.
“In some places the signage is unsightly and other places are in need of signage, because a lot of it is temporary and “adds nothing to the town.”
Ms McHale said KCC should ensure that signs are more uniform so that a Naas brand can be promoted and so encourage tourism growth.
She also suggests artificial hedging or panels to form a natural barrier for extended eating areas on pavements and public realms.
She also criticised “overflowing bins and untidy public areas.”
“A few small affordable changes would make a big difference. The town needs to look and feel inviting and vibrant in order to attract people in, have them stay, linger and enjoy a coffee.
If we can come together as a community to make these few small changes, we can support the local economy and help bring some life back into the town.”
Elaine is seeking the views of anyone who is interested in discussing these issues further - or who has any ideas or thoughts on anything to do with the retail of commercial development in Naas - or day to day life in the town and the impact of the virus.
These can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org