Pressure is mounting against any proposal that would see a new courthouse developed outside Naas.
The growth in population means that there is ever increasing pressure on the facilities provided at Naas Courthouse on the town’s main street.
The building is the venue for the regular Naas District Court but also accommodates cases that would previously have been heard in smaller premises in Kildare town Kilcock, Newbridge, Blessington and Dunlavin - as well as a growth in family law cases.
It also accommodated the Circuit Court, though these days have been temporarily transferred to Drogheda because of additional space pressure created by Covid-19 restrictions. IT’s one of only two courthouses in the county.
According to the Courts Service a large “county town standard courthouse” is included in the National Development Plan, which runs until 2027, although funding has not actually been allocated for the project.
A Courts Service spokesman said that the current site is “very constrained” and it will not be possible for it to meet future needs “within its boundaries.”
Three options are being considered - the purchase of a site adjacent to the courthouse so that an extended and refurbished courthouse building could be accommodated; acquiring another site in the town centre and securing a greenfield site on the outskirts of Naas.
It’s understood that the court premises will remain in Naas, whatever option is chosen.
Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said he will seek more clarity from the Office of Public Works and the Courts Service at a forthcoming meeting of the Dail’s Justice Committee, which will likely take place next month or October.
He said the courthouse, built in 1807, would remain on the present site because it is accessible to those using public transport, numerous solicitors offices are located nearby and the town benefits economically as a result of the number of people attending court.
“We’ve all seen various buildings closing in the town centre and I would not like to see a centre of activity like this taken out of town.
He said the building is one of the county’s most important in terms of history and heritage and it would be possible to extend it to the side or at the rear.
Dep Lawless, who’s also a practicing barrister, said that this is one of the country’s busiest court areas and a second judge is also needed for the District Court.
He also said new consultation rooms are necessary and “it’d be a good day for the town and the administration of justice” if the facility didn’t move.
Naas councillor Bill Clear the court should remain in situ because it’s an important building by day and a refurbishment offers the chance to create a stronger public realm area at night and weekends.
He said the courthouse in Waterford is an example of how the building can accommodate both uses.
Cllr Clear said there would be an opportunity to create more car parking spaces in that area of town if the area close to the courthouse is developed.
“The last thing we need in Naas is another big derelict building in the middle of the town, especially given that land is available,” he added, citing the boarded up courthouse in Wexford town as forewarning of what might happen.
County Kildare Chamber CEO Allan Shine said the closure of the building would “have a hugely negative impact on the town” including on traders.
He added: “We would encourage that the courthouse remain as it is. There are about forty solicitors in Naas and a new mediation service has recently opened, so it’d make no sense to move the courthouse.”
Hesaid many other service providers need the status quo to be maintained and it’s hard to see what other kind of activity could be housed there as an alternative.
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