File photo: Sallins
Sallins is, if you’ll excuse the reworking of an old cliche and no little exaggeration, being slowly transformed from an ugly duckling into a swan.
Many of the constituent parts of that transformation have taken a lot of — too much — time to solidify. But an array of improvements are on the way.
Last week, some local people gathered at the national school (it’s the pub or the school for many meetings in Sallins) to hear a progress report about the 33 acres of community land.
The land was bought by Kildare County Council to address the glaring need for space for sports and recreation in a town with a population of 6,000. The number of people living in Sallins doubled between 2002 and 2016.
KCC bought the land after a land swap arrangement was not followed through.
Councillors voted to rezone 70 acres of land outside Sallins and this was rejected by the Department of the Environment three years ago.
It effectively scuppered the prospect of 37 acres of land being made available for a new GAA club (25 acres), new soccer facilities (five acres) and community use (seven acres).
It was also intended to zone an additional three acres for educational uses — a likely site for a new primary school.
That land is owned by the McCarthy family, who also sought to have 30 acres zoned for residential development.
This could have led to an additional 360 houses being built. It was an imaginative proposal which many in the community supported.
All of the land is situated at Clane Road, near the junction leading to Bodenstown Graveyard.
The rezoning — referred to as a material alteration to the Sallins Local Area Plan 2016-2022 — was rejected by the then Minister for State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey.
The Minister said the councillors effectively did not comply with the planning and development legislation, something they were made aware of by Kildare County Council when they voted unanimously to rezone.
If nothing else, all of this highlighted the need for the land to be made available for the public to use.
And later that year plans, were announced by Kildare County Council to buy 33 acres of land that would be available for community use.
Little has happened since but proposals for how the land is to be used must go through a legal process and, though it’s taking some time, just about everybody acknowledges that it is in hand. And local groups as well as individuals will be afforded an opportunity to have a say on how the land should be used.
There are plans for a greenway through Sallins which will make the canal even more attractive to walkers and cyclists and will hopefully bring visitors, mainly of the day tripper variety, to Sallins.
One of the most interesting features of this project, which will enhance pedestrian safety, will be a footbridge over the waterway which will be between the school and the GAA club.
The long-awaited bypass is being constructed and this will address the ever present congestion brought about by the passage by 22,000 vehicles through the town every day.
This will provide relief for the many motorists and lorry drivers who have no option but to drive through Sallins.
This will be finished by the end of the year, though an exact date is not yet available.
A playground, first mooted many years ago, is among the smaller projects taking place but construction is underway and it will mean that the community will have its own facility rather than going to Monread.