Councillors frustrated at delays on Newbridge and Kildare town design plans

Council says it is trying to hire the right person for the job

Niamh O'Donoghue

Reporter:

Niamh O'Donoghue

Email:

niamh.odonoghue@leinsterleader.ie

Councillors frustrated at delays on Newbridge and Kildare town design plans

Kildare and Newbridge awaiting progress

Councillors have expressed frustration at the delay in creating much needed town design plans for Newbridge and Kildare despite earmarking €70,000 to hire an architect to head the project.  

At yesterday’s municipal district meeting, Cllr Morgan McCabe (Ind) and Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy (FG) asked for an update. Cllr Suzanne Doyle (FF) also questioned the delay in carrying out separate traffic management plans for both towns. 

Local councillors had all previously agreed €70,000 from the Local Property Tax (LPT) fund should be used to hire an architect from the Royal Irish Architects Institute (RIAI) to tackle the design plans. 

Kildare County Council Director of Services, Tadgh McDonnell said he had been in contact with the RIAI and it suggested the council utilise its graduate scheme. Mr McDonnell said that would mean the project would be spearheaded by someone who was only recently qualified as an architect. 

He said the council had advertised for architects under a tender arrangement that had already been advertised.

He said offers had gone out to the prospective employees and he wanted to see who got the job to ascertain what experience they had in the area of town design. He said they had received applications from Kildare, outside the county and other local authorities. 

Cllr McCabe said it was important the council expedite this extremely quickly, to draw up a plan, and cost what can be done.

Cllr Sean Power (FF) criticised the delay.

“I am not happy, we are still here in the middle of June and really making no progress on this matter,” he said. 

Mr McDonnell said they could have hired an architect from the RIAI but the council wanted someone with experience in the area of town design – to choose the best person for the job to ensure the project is carried out to its full potential.

Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy accused the council of trying to subvert the decision of the councillors. She said the whole idea of setting aside the money for the architect was to ensure the town plan could be progressed and not subject to any delays.

Cllr Suzanne Doyle said the council has excellent architects in house and this was a great opportunity to get someone in from outside, with such experience to work with them and learn from them. 

She mentioned the visit of Simon Wall, who spearheaded the Westport rejuvenation. She said the candidate would also need that element of charm to help convince members of the community of the merits of the vision. Cllr McLoughlin Healy said Mr Wall's visit had built up people's expectations and now they would be disappointed.

Mr McDonnell said he was aware of the talents of Simon Wall, and he had arranged his visits to Kildare to meet councillors and the communities. He said there were staff in the council, but they could not be released to take on the project. 

He rejected Cllr McLoughlin Healy’s contention that the council had tried to subvert the process. He said there were rules and regulations, and head count was a matter for the Council's Chief Executive. If new people were to be taken on, he said any extra staff had to be approved by the Department. 

Cllr Mark Lynch (SF) acknowledged the Director was trying to get the best person for the job to ensure it was done right. 

Cllr Doyle also recognised this, but pointed out time was of the essence with major planning applications currently being assessed for Kildare town such as the Kildare Village expansion.

She said apart from the town design plans, the traffic management plans were vital for the future development of the towns.

She said the outdated Kildare plan, which was carried out when schools were off and didn’t take in the railway station traffic, was still being referenced in the planning process, despite being flawed. She criticised the delay in National Transport Authority (NTA) funding for the traffic plans. 

The council said it was still in discussions with the NTA about the scope of the traffic plans and funding.

Cllr Joanne Pender asked for an estimated time frame for the projects. She asked if the money could be used to carry out some work in advance of the town design plans. 

Mr McDonnell said the council could look at doing some works in the meantime.