SEMINAR ON TOMORROW’S ROBERTSTOWN

by ehistoryadmin on May 23, 2015

 

LEINSTER LEADER 18 AUGUST 1973

ROBERTSTOWN’S VAST potential as a tourism region was highlighted at a seminar entitled “The Management of the environment in tomorrow’s Robertstown” in the former Grand hotel on Wednesday.

            Officially opened by Mr. Ted Barrett, Joyline Cruisers, the seminar placed emphasis on proposals to improve the special character of the village and environs.

            Speakers included Mr. Niall Meagher, Kildare County Planning Officer, who dealt with existing areas of natural amenity and put forward suggestions of possible improvements and developments for leisure and recreation.

            Mr. David Court, General Manager, Blakes Broads Holidays, spoke on the highly successful development of the Broadlands of Norfolk and Suffolk and gave many useful hints on how Roberststown area might follow suit.

Land Use

            Mr. P. J. O’Hare, Asst. Director, Agricultural Institute, delved into history to come up with some very interesting sidelights on how the region developed.  He gave his views on ideal land use aspects for the area against the background of an amenity complex near Dublin

The seminar was organised by Mr. Andy Cole, who is in charge of the Agricultural Institute’s Peatland Expermental  Station, Lullymoe, Co. Kildare, and Mr. Joseph Greevy, member of Robertstown Festa Committee and Executive Director, Keep Ireland Beautiful Movement.

            Following the morning session, Mr. Fergal Mulloy took the party on a field trip to view the potential at first hand, and Mr. Ernst Jocher, afterwards brought the group on a tour of his falconry and spoke about the role of birds of prey in the environment.

            Later in the evening there was a very useful panel discussion  and the programme ended with a canal trip and a cocktail party.

As Planner

          At the seminar, Kildare Co. Planning Officer, Mr. Niall Meagher, Naas, stressed that he was speaking as a lanner, and not as a visionary.  Planners, he said, relied on back-ground information and this was not very precise in relation to the village and the surrounding areas.

            He described Robertstown as a very important ingredient in the county-development plan.  Recalling that he had first seen the area from the air 25 years ago, when he was studying ton planning, he said he was thrilled at the sight of a “perfect little gem” which reminded on e of a little Dutch village with its curving waterfront.  The former Grand Canal Hotel was then a work camp being used by Bord na Mona.

            Mr. Meagher said that all the emphasis on the region must be on recreational and aesthetic matters.  The village was set bang in the middle of a region which has been the fastest growing part of Ireland.  For this reason, being set close to a magnificent coast line and the lovely Wicklow mountain range, Robertstown was vulnerable.  It would always cater for the selective type of person looking for recreational outlets.

            Pleading for protection for the area’s “magical qualities”, he said care was needed in handling the environment.  They would not get away with the utter brashness of many of the holiday centres.

High Standard

He went on, “By encouragement and legislation and planning control, we have to ensure that these unharmonous notes do not creep into the village.  We must establish and keep a high standard in the environment.”

Mr. Meagher spelled out the many attractive features of the village and the environs and said these led to the coining of a Stephen Rynne phrase describing it as “a Rembrandt landscape”.  The County Council would be planting trees in the autumn and already the ugliness of wireslape had been taken of recently by putting the wires underground.

            Mr. Meagher said the canal was, of course, the central feature, hemmed around by a network of tow-paths, roads, and the feeder lines and SlateRiver.  He said a striking improvement was the opening of a new lock at Ballyteague. 

            He was wholly confident that the canal traffic would go on increasing and it was important to see that the necessary facilities to deal with the needs of visitors are provided.  He clearly indicated that he supports Robertstown’s case for sanitary facilities, a lack which is singularly noteworthy and regrettable at a time when the village is a developing focal point.

            After mentioning other features which give the area attraction, he said the fauna and flora of the region are of particular interest.  These were “fragile factors” which should be carefully watched in achieving balanced development.  Pollardstown Fen, although outside the Robertstown district was an important source of water for the canal system.

            Mr. Meagher said an important aspect of future development was the fact that much o the land in the region was in the hands of one semi-state body, Bord na Mona, who would no doubt do the right thing.

Flooding

He said the Co. Council were also interested in re-opening the Naas canal branch and in the maintenance of the existing system, although the council was not at present directly concerned with upkeep.

  Mr. Meagher said that Mr. Ted Barrett had been the first to suggest that areas of bog be flooded to extend amenities.  Good ideas such as this should be followed by studies, to determine how best they might be implemented.

            “We must not loose sight of the main thing, the future of the indigenous population and the quality of life in the Brigadoon-type village and environs.

            Industries of the right type in that area could be of immense benefit in enabling other development to proceed and prosper.

Survey,”the very bones of planning”, was vital to the future, and critical appreciation of the total environment.  For this reason, any development must be handled with sensitivity and foresight.

“A picturesque CanalTown subject to a Brigadoon-like awakening once a year to the delight and amazement of the metropolitan region, must indeed, receive very special consideration if it is to be prevented from disappearing into the midst of the bog and to be a constant reality.

“As far as Canal traffic is concerned, the future of Robertstown must be assured, provided that it will honour its obligation to provide basic facilities – food, water and quiet moorings.  The village has the hard-edge quality of a proper workmanlike CanalTown.  This should not be lost by fussy landscaping and intrusive “amenities”.

Guidance

“Stephen Rynne’s description of “Rembrandt Landscape,” fairly sums up the setting of the Robertstown region, embracing as it does, the main complex of Timahoe, Lullymore and Ballydermot Bogs.  Many proposals have been made regarding the future of these boglands from forestry to artificial boating lakes.  Development is inevitable and desirable but it must be guided carefully, so that the subtle and fragile nature of the environment does not loose its character.

            “The development of this area already has the backing of the County Development Plan which classifies Robertstown as an area of “Special Amenity”.  The Council have also been active in their support of the renewal scheme for the village.  As the regional recreational demands become clarified, the impact on the area will increase.

“As far as possible this impact should be foreseen and the Robertstown area should be geared to meeting its challenge.  To this end, a specialised study should be undertaken, both of the pressures which will be brought to bear and the capacity which much [sic] be generated within the area itself to satisfy these pressures.

“While the future of Robertstown will be based on mundane statistics and planning policies, the element of imagination must be incorporated if it is to be successful.  The success of the Grand Canal Festa is a fair indication that Robertstown will not be lacking in this matter.”

Further reports from the Seminar in next issue.

Re-typed by Mary Murphy

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