By Suzanne Pender
PLANNED works for Duckett’s Grove must be completed in time for the tourist season, local councillors insisted this week.
At last Thursday’s meeting of Carlow Municipal District, director of services Michael Brennan outlined proposed works for the historic site, which include a coffee shop, a new entrance layout and the introduction of audio handsets in five languages.
Guided tours will also be operated Friday to Sunday from 24 March to 29 October, while an audio/visual room will be available Monday to Friday, then seven days a week from March to October. Interpretive panels are also available to view.
Mr Brennan confirmed that tenders for the works would “be uploaded tomorrow”, four weeks later the tender will be awarded, while the process to secure a franchise/contractor to operate the tea rooms would also begin. He stated that a new entrance pathway would be created through the arch at the front of Duckett’s Grove, more appropriately entering alongside an information point and the coffee shop, while the old access would be closed off.
Mr Brennan said there is also a vacant position for a gardener, which will be readvertised, with three assistant gardeners currently working at Duckett’s Grove, while the council would welcome expressions of interest for the vacant units at Duckett’s Grove.
In relation to access inside Duckett’s Grove, Mr Brennan said that concerns about masonry within the building had created a health and safety issue.
Mayor of Carlow cllr Fintan Phelan said it was of “critical importance” that the council moves ahead on this. “This is going on a long time and there can be no delay to get this open in time for summer,” he added.
Cllr Fergal Browne praised the “great work” being done, but was disappointed about the ongoing delays, adding his belief that the tourist season begins on St Patrick’s Day.
“We were told the tea rooms would be open by March 2023, that’s not going to happen now.” Cllr Browne also requested the council secure the contractor for the tea rooms, so when works are completed, they could “move in the next day”.
Cllr Browne pointed out that there was no structural report was carried out on Duckett’s Grove in the first place and questioned denying access internally at the site due to the possibility of flying masonry.
“People are going in there for hundreds of years and the odds of getting hit in the head are fairly slim,” he added.
Cllr Browne also called for a plaque at Duckett’s Grove to highlight the Carlow Fence, an example of which was located within the grounds.
Cllr Ken Murnane suggested that as “a mark of goodwill”, one of the languages available on the audio handsets should be Ukrainian.
Several councillors pressed Mr Brennan on the urgency to have Duckett’s Grove ready for the summer tourist season.
Cllr Phelan concluded the debate by insisting that the date the tender is awarded, the contractor should be ready immediately, adding that this should be a condition of the tender.