There was a lively and engaged debate in the CYMS in Kildare town last Thursday evening, July 12, when politicians met with locals to discuss making submissions on the town’s next Area Plan.
Over the course of almost two hours, a broad range of issues were discussed, but by the end of the meeting they had solidified into several broad areas of concern.
These are: the future of the abandoned army site at Magee Barracks, parking/traffic issues, creating a living environment suitable for all age groups, the future of recreation in the town and developing a retail strategy.
At the suggestion of Cllr. Suzanne Doyle, it was agreed that interested people from the meeting would sign up to take part in workshop discussions on this issues.
There was broad agreement that something had to be done with the Magee Barracks site. Unfortunately, the possibility of celebrating the army history of the site has been diminished because vandals have so damaged the remaining buildings that their heritage value has been nullified.
The meeting heard that the Department of Defence now believes the only safe thing to do is to knock them. However the cost of that project and the fact that many of the buildings, despite the damage done to them, are still listed buildings stands in their way. The buildings need to be de-listed before they can be knocked.
Meanwhile, the debate as to what to do with the site continues. Some felt that it could be used as a park, or for recreational purposes while others believed it would be a perfect site for a large multinational who would bring jobs and investment to the area.
Cllr. Tony O’Donnell noted that whatever happened, they couldn’t just put a fence around it. He proposed that an interim plan be drawn up, to make the site somewhat useful and to deter anti-social behaviour, and also a long-term plan.
It was generally agreed that the future of the site will probably be a defining question for the whole town.
Parking and traffic calming issues exercised the minds of many people, from several different parts of the town.
While some were waiting for almost a decade for speed ramps, others bemoaned their inability to park outside their own houses.
Conor Furey, one of the main speakers, an engineer and a developer said he believed that speeds ramps were a bad idea, and only caused greater noise pollution. He was in favour of speed cameras and narrowing of the roadways to calm traffic.
On the issue of parking, he explained that a holistic approach needed to be taken. He explained that banning parking from one place only pushes people to park elsewhere. He also wasn’t in favour of town centre parking, explaining that it can ruin business.
The Kildare Village retail outlet, and the fact last year it attracted 2.2 million people, was a major talking point.
The big focus for locals is on getting as many of that number of people to venture further than the outlet mall, and into the town centre. Various strategies were discussed, and eventually it was agreed that work would be done on creating an overall retail strategy for the town.
Housing is another issue, particularly unfinished esates. Thanfully, Deputy Sean O’Fearghaill noted, the lack of sewage infrastructure, while it was a frustration during the boom years, had prevented rampant housing development, and as a result, saved the town from ghost estates.
There are still issues with unfinished estates, with inadequate or incomplete infrastructure and services.
However Mr. Furey pointed out that new legislation expected shortly will “change entirely” the way planning and development is done, leading to fewer instances of this.
Former councillor Fionnula Dukes said she was particularly happy that a flood impact survey would form part of the plan.
July 18 is the deadline for submissions on the Kildare Local Area Plan. It is expected that the workshop groups will meet this week in advance of that.