A Tale of Two Towns

NAAS, 20 April 2002: OPINION by John Kavanagh. Recently I spent a week in the town that is considered to be the 9th poorest town in Ireland - New Ross - and came back from that town all the richer for that experience. So much richer that I feel that the town of Naas that I have returned to is monetarily richer but is civically in the depths of poverty. A few examples:

Access to public offices
As I go by the Town Hall in Naas I see that the entrance to the Town Hall is blocked to those in buggies and wheelchairs by a flight of steps.

Then I compare it to New Ross: several years ago the entrance to its Town Hall was altered and a ramp installed that allows wheelchairs and buggies to easily enter. The Town Hall is on a narrow street, and so when the ramp was going in it could be seen that there would not be enough room for double buggies to get by without having to go on the road. A visitor and ex-resident of the town went in and said this to the authorities. Two weeks later the path had been widened. A rapid response and motorists forced to allow for the safety of pedestrians.

Road Safety
We have had a lot of talk about the need to have speed controls in Naas and, true, some have gone in, but not enough. The Monread speedway from the park to the Dublin road is still in existence. Beside children playing in housing estates we see cars doing 50 /60mph in residential areas. In the recent plans of the ring roads displayed in the Town Council Chamber, roads through residential areas and along by the Monread Park are shown as part of the ring road network.

Back to New Ross: on the outside of the town is an area called South Knock. Recently a parcel of land at the top of this went for development for houses. The residents saw that the once-safe roads of south Knock where children played could become a shortcut to this new development. So, before the development was even started, they put speed ramps into south Knock. Solving a problem before it even started.

Civic spaces
We have very few real civic spaces in Naas. Civic spaces are places where facilities are provided for people to meet and mingle. To interact and socialise. Look at the park in Monread. Cut down and cut down in size until the people said 'no more'. Its facilities consist of trees, two wooden seats and a few bins.  The residents came to the council with a desire to work with the council suggesting safe 'drop zones' for children, toilets, lighting, removal of electrical hazards, and playground. The town of Naas doesn't even have a single playground provided by the local authorities. The only one in a public space is owned and maintained by the residents of that estate. The linear park has no seating provision. This in a town with over 5,000 children under the age of 11

In New Ross last week, I sat on the seats in the playground, surrounded by a kids happily playing in a playground that has been there for many years. A playground  upon which 40,000 euros was spent last year on providing new amenities. I watched kids from all social backgrounds mingling and playing together. I was drawn into conversation with people I had never met until that day. We talked about parenting, social issues and our experiences. I learned about other places to amuse the children. This was a social space where social interaction and mingling of people occurred.

Traffic Lights
Those who know me know that the issue of having to take one's life into ones hands as one goes to cross the lights in Naas is a constant sore point. The Guards have list of registration numbers that I have supplied from incidents at the crossings, and some motorists have heard my statements directly on the matter. In Naas 'orange' means accelerate, and pedestrians crossing when the light is 'green' often do not appear to have right of way. 

In New Ross: press the button on the main street along the quay, the lights change within 15 seconds, the traffic stops, not on the red but on the orange, and we had enough time to get across safely with time to spare.

I could go on. But I am sure you will agree New Ross may be poor in monetary terms but it is civically far richer, with a great civic spirit. Long may that continue.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.


Recent Naas stories

Piper's Hill development permission overturned

Councillors mourn garda deaths

Town clerk 'dreads' refuse subvention prospect

Monread Park on a sunny Sunday

Councillors want better PO counter service

Council being asked to help with 'hardship' refuse charges

Refurbished Youth Information Centre opened

'Cuddly' brings spring to life

Lakelands fury over parking situation

Mayor Willie wants private 'gloves off' meeting

Naas TC may not make Millennium move

10th Naas Easter Parade

Naas Harbour sees the fleet in


Naas Town Council is out of control - OPINION

NAAS, 13 March 2002: OPINION by Brian Byrne. I have to be careful here. Writs are already being readied for launch between members of Naas Town Council, and I don’t particularly want to be the target of any myself.

But I have to comment on the behaviour of some of the council members at last night’s monthly meeting. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job. My comments relate to people in their capacity as members or officials of the council, and not to them in any private way.

First, I believe the chairman of the council, Willy Callaghan, should resign from the position after presiding over what can only be described as the most disgraceful scenes I have ever witnessed at a local authority meeting.

The chairman not only failed totally to control two separate verbally violent episodes, but he also failed to prevent two councillors - with whom he departs today on an official twinning trip to Omaha, Nebraska - from bullying, hassling, and eventually reducing to tears another councillor who ‘had the floor’. Cllr Mary Glennon was so upset that she was forced to leave the meeting.

If there was ever an occasion when the chairman of a meeting should have told two of the contributors to leave the proceedings, the performance of Cllrs Timmy Conway and Seamie Moore last night was it. But they continued to harangue Cllr Mary Glennon while she tried to take her right of reply as proposer of a motion related to the assessment of the various twinnings in which Naas is involved.

Verbal cut and thrust in political arenas is acceptable, sometimes necessary. It can be entertaining, it can even be productive. But there are boundaries of decency, and there is a right to free speech. On last night’s events, Messrs Moore and Conway apparently don’t entertain either of these. Nasty personalised comments and continuous interruptions seemed to be their preferred modus operandi last night.

You can read the transcript of the meeting elsewhere. You’ll find verbatim details of the episodes last night which, in the end, succeeded in turning Naas Town Council into the kind of vicious farce that could have gotten a week's run next door in the Moat Hall as the the most depressing kind of drama.

I should say here that I will be accused of ‘being brought in’ by Cllr Glennon to ‘undermine’ the trip to Omaha. Such was clearly intimated at the meeting. For your direct benefit, Cllr Conway, that is certainly not the case. I presume, and expect, that the trip will bring rewards of a commercial and cultural kind to Naas, and that as the instigator of the twinning you will get deserved credit for these. Linkings between different communities in an often savage world can only be for the good.

But you, and your colleague Cllr Moore, and the chairman, are in Omaha from later today representing your council and the people who elected you to a position of respect.

Last night’s performance - and one in a previous meeting, as I understand from published reports - undermined that respect badly. It brought the Council into disrepute. And that the worst offenders were a previous and future chairman of the Council only makes the matter even more horrendous.

One councillor of long standing tells me he feels he wants to write a letter to the people of Naas, ‘to apologise for the carryings-on in the chamber where the members are supposed to be doing work for the people’.

Even the Town Clerk, Declan Kirrane, was moved last night to interject that 'nobody around the table had any respect for the chair’. That the two who showed least respect last night should be accompanying the same chair as Grand Master of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Omaha is irony indeed.

Naas Town Council seems, to this writer, to be out of control, careering crazily towards a bad end, probably in the courts. The townspeople of Naas who elected the Council don’t deserve that.

NOTE: The foregoing is a personal commentary on the events by Brian Byrne, a journalist who attended the meeting.


Willie Callaghan - failed to prevent hassling.

Mary Glennon - left in tears.

Timmy Conway

Seamie Moore


Land for Maynooth community 'delayed by Stagg'

LEIXLIP, 24 October, 2001: OPINION by Paul Kelly. I am very disappointed at the delay caused to the Maynooth Development Plan by Emmet Stagg’s petulant outburst in Kildare County Council on Monday. Even allowing for the fact that he is campaigning for the general election, his scandalous accusations about corruption in Kildare County council were completely over the top. The fact that he has been back-tracking since he made them makes his refusal to withdraw them even worse.

He has misled the public, in his comments in the chamber on Monday, and on CKR Radio yesterday, by trying to suggest that he made no such allegations. My recollection, and that of all the other members who spoke yesterday is that he did indeed make them, and realizing his mistake, tried to bluster his way out. I am glad that he has completely withdrawn any suggestion of improper conduct on my part, and on the part of the present members of the council.  However, he has deliberately allowed allegations to remain in respect of former members of the council, and this is unacceptable.

Kildare County Council conducts much of its work through Area Committees and this system has worked successfully for many years. In the case of the Maynooth Development Plan, the four members of the Leixlip/Maynooth Area Committee have spent a considerable amount of time preparing the Plan. We have had the benefit of the expert advice of consultants Brady Shipman Martin; we have consulted widely with residents, landowners, developers and members of the Maynooth community; we have discussed the options with the planning officials. 

After all of these deliberations we put together a plan which has compromises but which we feel is the best plan for Maynooth at this time.  We presented that Plan to our colleagues on the Council at Monday’s meeting and we asked for it to be adopted so that it could be put on public display for the people of Maynooth. We expected them to accept the recommendation of the Area Committee which had been carefully and thoughtfully put together. 

Deputy Stagg chose to interfere in that process and delay progress with the Plan by raising spurious and untruthful issues for no apparent reason except possibly to gain publicity for himself. There was no basis for his allegations against his fellow Council members. They had nothing to do with the Maynooth Development Plan. They served no purpose other than to delay the adoption of the Plan and the consequent acquisition of much needed land for sporting and community purposes. 

The meeting, which was scheduled to deal with 34 items of business, had to be adjourned at item 6 due to the disorder caused by Deputy Stagg.  He has not only delayed the Maynooth Plan but other important business as well.  This conduct does not befit a man of his experience and a representative of Dail Eireann. As he well knows, he would not be allowed to disrupt the business of Dail Eireann in a similar way.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

Why no consultation on St Patrick's sale?

NAAS, 16 September, 2001: OPINION by Donal Corcoran. It would seem that once a political process has started, that  it is unstoppable. It seems that certain politicians are hell bent on selling off St Patrick's Community College for land speculation with little or no consultation with the Partners in Education - the teachers, the parents, the students. I would challenge these  same politicians to publicly explain their actions to the education partners.  Answers should be given to the following questions:
(1) Why is there a perceived need to sell off the newest Post Primary School in Naas?
(2) Facilities do have to be immediately improved for the students but why can that not be done on a perfectly  adequate site?
(3) Why have they a preference  for a site on the Sallins Road away from most of the school's natural catchment area which would deprive  the Naas  community of green belt land and at the same time also deprive the community of playing fields and community facilities presently enjoyed at the present site?
(4) Why are they prepared to accept the valuation put on this site by the owner, even though the Valuation Office puts a much lower valuation on it?
(5) They should explain to the Education Partners how their deliberations have set back the development of St. Patrick's Community College.
(6) They should explain, from studies undertaken by them, the effect of removing all educational  facilities from this area of the town.
It is not before time that all politicians should talk, not only to land speculators, but to the community that they are supposed to be serving.
Donal Corcoran

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

Weasel words and selective figuring

NAAS, 9 August, 2001: OPINION by John Kavanagh. It is interesting to read the discussion on the issue of the Sallins road car parks and the weasel words being used in this debate and the selective quoting of figures.
I was at the UDC meeting the night that the sale to Mr Treacy was to be discussed. I was the only member of the public present by 10.15 that night - the press were gone and only the councillors and I were left. I was then asked by the chair, Cllr O'Reilly, to leave as the Chair wanted this matter to be discussed off the public record. I am left wondering what would have happened if my immediate response after leaving had not been to inform others that there were matters being discussed of fundamental concern to the town and people of Naas off the public record. 
The next meeting at which the matter was discussed was in public, possibly as people now knew what was on the table. However the first order of business at an AGM - for such it was - is normally the election of the new chair. Cllr O'Reilly changed the order of business and that was moved until after the Baba sale item. A detailed report which must have taken a lot of time and effort was read out by the town executive officials and in doing so, at that point became a matter of public record. Prior to that it was not.
In the discussion on the price the UDC was getting for the property it was stated that one of the things that the Council was getting was a road that they would have had to build themselves, priced at £500,000. What was not mentioned that a condition of the planning permission was that the road would have to be built. It would have been built whether the site sold at £1.5 million or £500,000. This was irrelevant in the debate as to the value for money obtained.
On the issue of the actual price, It was stated that Mr Treacy felt that he should have been given the car park for free! In the end, though, he received it at the knockdown price of £500,000 over 10 years discounted at 6%. This does not mean that the town gains £707,000 as Cllr O'Reilly tries to claim, as the value of this money in 10 years' time will be far less than it is now. This is little more than a loan of £500,000 at a low interest rate. Interest rates are designed to reflect the cost of money changing over time. A more appropriate rate of inflation to reflect the true value of the site would have been in the order of 15%.  
What was also stated and restated in Cllr O'Reilly's letter was the rates gain. Again this is irrelevant to the sale price debate, as these would have been obtained no matter who had owned the site before it was developed. 

Now we see Cllr O'Reilly champions the developer's right to ignore legally binding planning conditions. Planning conditions put in for the benefit of Naas. Can the councillor tell me what is going to happen next September when the schools start up again and when the church opens up again next week?
The members of the NUJ who were criticised tell it as they see it and not only carry the bad news on the chamber, but also carry the positive news. They are not pets to be fed the occasional tit-bit so that they then roll over for their bellies to be scratched, but they are professionals.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

How local is our democracy?

LEIXLIP, 9 July, 2001: OPINION by Mike Parle. With the Irish General Elections next year, and Local Elections in 2004, lets get an open debate going on the health of local democracy.

Two reasons say why it will affect you:

1. The passing of the new Local Government Bill through the Dail
2. The imminent publication of the Draft Development Plan for the town of Leixlip

The recent voter turnout for the Nice Treaty referendum was too low. There is now no doubt that this democratic outcome is a major challenge to the main political parties in Ireland and politicians throughout Europe. The plain people of Ireland have been allowed to have their say. Are we not very fortunate to have an Irish Constitution to protect our rights?

Individual citizen now believe that their individual input can make little or no difference to:

* The outcome of an election / referendum
* the policy that will be pursed by the successful candidates and or their parties

They feel very far away from where the real power lies. They have a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. This is clearly an unacceptable situation, which must be damaging to the basic fabric of democracy itself.

Many readers will have some knowledge of and appreciation for the essence of democracy. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." Its origins lie in ancient Greece, in the city of Athens. It was there some 2,500 years ago that the Greek word "demokratia" was conceived and born as a new revolutionary governmental solution to handle a revolutionary political situation. It gave Athenians say in their future system of government. This eliminated a ‘them and us’ situation. The people ruled themselves. This democratic process unleashed on the city potentials within their society that could not be made in any other way. This unique system of government created citizens that "excelled all others in versatility, resourcefulness and brilliance." Democracy gave the Athenians a great advantage over others in unleashing talents, powers, opportunities that other cultures simply couldn’t match.

Sadly since then many of the key elements of democracy have been hijacked, in order to satisfy personal private agendas of powerful politicians and political parties. The remoteness of the ruling body of the EU proves that a move away from the ordinary people has taken place. This is reflected in our current voting behavior.

To conclude I wish to make a case in respect of local democracy here in Leixlip. Leixlip has had a Local Authority (Town Commissioners) for 13 years. It is only on the first rung of the (British) Local Authority ladder, with very modest powers and budgets. Kildare County Council runs Leixlip and administers its services from Naas.

On KCC the 2 Leixlip Councilors only have 8% of any vote concerning key issues for our town. No matter how strongly they feel about a particular issue, people (i.e. a major political party) who may not understand a local issue can always outvote them. This is dangerous.

This is no different than the gerrymandering strategy adopted by Unionist in Northern Ireland pre-1970 in order to manipulate the outcome of a vote.

Further danger lies in current proposed enabling legislation to give certain powers to non-elected County Managers to site Incinerators and Waste Management facilities wherever they choose, to deal with the challenge of waste management. He will decide where a waste management facility can go, regardless of the County Development Plan. This is a serious threat, way and beyond that of any other planning matter.

Another related issue is of similar national importance:

Under the Planning Act 2000 Legislation County Managers will be able to decide on issues and effectively make a County Plan if the five-year statutory period for making them is exceeded. What does that mean? How many dumps did officials try to bring in, only to have disagreement amongst the councilors scupper it? Now such disagreements will not be able to hold up the siting of a dump because the manager can make the plan to include one, if the councilors do not decide in time.

A legal challenge could be more effective than the usual appeal to TDs who have to toe the party line.

This is about our heritage and our environment and what we're doing to protect it. This goes to the heart of political accountability [the recent unseemly and disastrous haste to push the Nice referendum through being symptomatic], sustainability and what we're leaving our children is the key. Is it to be that a once beautiful little island with its own currency, language and culture is to be reduced to a homogenised dump for the rest of Europe? Its seas fished out by people with no thought for future fish stocks, and its countryside covered with high density [20 to the acre] housing estate ghettos?

The new Local Government Bill is squandering a once in a lifetime opportunity to give towns like Leixlip the necessary powers and fund raising capability to run its own affairs. Just like the ancient city-state of Athens.

By contrast with true democracy it is the intention of the government bill to abolish Town Commissions, Urban District Councils and Borough Councils – replacing them with new bodies called Town Councils. This is a grave blow to local democracy and the community and voluntary sector scuppering UDC towns like Athy and Naas. Towns like Leixlip who are now very experienced in the operation of Local Government are to be denied promotion with enhanced powers! With many years’ experience, we are not to be trusted to run the affairs of our own town. This is an appalling and most threatening development for all the North Kildare towns.

If the town is to be run efficiently and effectively, in the best interests of its citizens, then it is logical to grant it the necessary legislative powers and fund raising capabilities to do that job. This is a fundamental right that the townspeople and its leaders deserve.

The Town Commission since 1988, with limited powers and even more limited funding has done excellent work. I would suggest that in a head-to-head even contest, it would leave Kildare County Council very far back down the field in its wake if measured in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

I rest my case and await free and democratic comment.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

From the back of the chamber - a journalist's view of Naas UDC

Naas UDC in non-rancorous mode - at its centenary last year.

NAAS, 4 July, 2001 (Independence Day): OPINION by Brian Byrne. It wasn’t so much a case of shooting the messenger, just taking poorly-aimed potshots at him. Last night’s performances at Naas UDC were all too familiar.

But that’s what journalists are for. Set them up, shoot ’em down. If you can stop the hand shaking.

That’s one thing about sitting at the back of Naas UDC. You can see the hands shake. You can almost smell the apoplexy coming to the boil. It really can’t be very good for the health, sitting as a councillor in Naas UDC these days. And if one wasn’t in the whole of one’s mental heart, sitting there as a journalist might be a terminal risk.

But we do it. Because that’s our job. Part of it anyway, reporting on the proceedings. But our job is also more. Apart from what we hear at a local authority meeting, we also find out other things. And we tell other people the things we find out. That’s our job.

Quite often there are people who don’t want journalists to find out the things we tell to other people. Mostly, it is the political body which doesn’t like things being revealed.

Because secrets are power. And every ‘secret’ that a politician loses to the public domain diminishes his or her ‘power’. Maybe if they’re not in control of the issuing of ‘secrets’, they get afraid that benefit will accru to somebody else without them being able to claim credit. There are other reasons for keeping secrets too, but if we start getting into all the complexities, we’ll lose focus.

And that’s the other thing you see from the back table at Naas UDC. People losing focus. People straying from the core of the job to be done and getting sidetracked into thinking how much more important they are than they are. If you see what I mean.

You see - and hear - councillors metaphorically taking off and launching crude political bombs just for the sake of scoring over colleagues. And in these sorties, just like in a real war, it’s the poor civilians on the ground who are paying for it and not getting any benefit from the aerobatics of some of the Biggleses around the council table.

With some notable exceptions of individual members and officials and occasions, and maybe on non-contentious matters, you can hear copius quantities of waffle, piffle, bullsh, bilge, drivel, twaddle and blather. The fluffing of political feathers too regularly drowns out rational queries when they most often need to be answered.

And at the back end of the chamber, while politicans prattle, scribes scribble. Often trying to make sense of nonsense. Sometimes attempting to dig behind the uttered words to find out what’s left unsaid. Always trying to at least get out the facts in an intelligable form to their readers. To the politicians’ electorate. Who, poor sods, only have a once in five years chance to get a say of their own.

For the other four years and three hundred and sixty-four days, we poor journalist sods are in between. And for the last two AGMs in the current Naas UDC, we’ve been the target of potshots from people who don’t like us doing our job. Unless we’re doing THEIR public relations job. Which is NOT our job anyway.

Money wouldn’t pay you to put up with it. But then, nobody pays me in KNN to do it. Think of it as public service journalism.

And at least I don’t have a shake in my hand. Yet.

(And I wish the new chairman well in his efforts to improve matters.)

Queries latest swimming pool proposals

NAAS, 25 June, 2001: OPINION by John Kavanagh. We hear that Kildare County Council is making a great effort to try to redevelop the county's two swimming pools. In doing this, one would expect that the UDCs in the areas involved would be doing their best to ensure that the people they serve would be getting the best that they could get for them. The issue was raised at the Naas UDC meeting recently but unfortunately only two issues seemed to be on the minds of the councillors who raised the swimming pool issue.
It was proposed to the KCC reps present that the pool should be named after a deceased councillor. Calling the pool after a local politician who was involved in getting the pool to Naas is one thing, but what about the recognition due to the Naas businessmen whose philanthropic behaviour made sure that it happened? This was back in the lean ’70s - every £1,000 put up by the likes of Eddie Marum then is about equivalent to £20,000 today. Surely these people who put their money where their mouth was and didn't crow about it, deserve some recognition also?
The second proposal was that the pool be moved from its current location, close to the centre of the town where it is easily and safely accessible to all, to a new location on the outskirts of the town along the Caragh Road well out of the way of many in the town without a car.
That road has been the subject of much debate in the chamber with Cllr Egan repeatedly showing how dangerous the road is and bringing evidence of the repeated incidents on the bridge over that road. Cllr Egan has also been repeatedly told how the bridge has a preservation order and nothing can be done to deal with the safety fears. Yet this is the access route to the proposed location.
Moving the pool out to this site would move it outside the reach of many people in the town and county. Pedestrian/bicycle access would be eliminated for safety reasons and the site is well out of the way of the bus routes that others in the county use to get to the pool. The days of dropping into the pool for a swim on the way home from school  or while mother/father is doing their business in the town, would be over.
(I wonder what the town's Recreation Officer would have to say about this? The officer we are supposed to have under the Government's national children's environmental Strategy.)
Last year Cllr Pat O'Reilly, who proposed the most recent motion, championed the use of the swimming pool site as a car park ('to pave paradise and put up a parking lot'?). Initially he said that it would be 'temporary' to facilitate a developer's development of the town's main car-park into a shopping area, but as he was pressed further on the issue after protests by a variety of people, he admitted that once the car park went in it would never come out.

The fly in the ointment in his plan was the swimming pool, the county's asset for the people of Naas and environs. The pool's location and the need to provide safe access to the pool by its patrons (young and old) stood in the way of this as did the minor fact that KCC owns the land. Now it seems that, despite the protests of locals, he is off again.
In getting  rid of the civic amenity that this space represents he will be acting to assist a developer during the development of what was the site of the main car park in the centre of the town (see KNN archives).
Has this the potential to be yet another site to be sold to a developer at half, or less than half of its market value - ie how the other two car parks in the town seem to have gone in the last two years?

Was this brought back on the agenda at one of the in-committee meetings with developers that the UDC seems to be so fond of ('in-committee' and so 'out of public eye/record')?
What happened to 'clear and open government for the people and of the people'? Do the people of Naas really count any more? Ask the residents' committees such as those from Kingsfurze,  Lakelands and Ashgrove and other action groups who are still waiting for responses to their letters to the powers-that-be.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

Concerned about secrecy over St Patrick's move

NAAS, 24 March, 2001: OPINION by Donal Corcoran. The latest debate on the proposed relocation of St. Patrick's Community College at the Naas U.D.C. meeting has certainly not helped the development of our school with the disgraceful level of debate and the poor knowledge of the councillors on the educational and social issues involved.

Why all the secrecy about the proposed move of the College from its present site on the Limerick Road to a site on the Sallins Road? Staff, students and parents of the school have been kept in the dark. And Cllr Pat O' Reilly's comment at a recent Naas UDC meeting about ‘signalling to the Minister of Education and Science that the community is behind the move’ is ludicrous. It is clear that the community has not been informed of exactly what is at issue here; neither have the students, their parents or the teachers.

These are the facts as I have researched them. Students moved into the school, then called Naas Vocational School in 1970. In recent years the record of repairs has not been good. While this leaves a lot to be desired, I would disagree with Cllr. Bracken, a member of the committee responsible for the upkeep of the building, that ‘it is gone a bit derelict and that is why they are not getting the students’.

Notwithstanding the state of the building, St. Patrick's Community College has excellent facilities including three Computer rooms, a Senior Engineering room, a Junior Metalwork room, a Woodwork room, a Building Construction room, two Science Labs, two Technical Graphics rooms, a Domestic Economy room, modern facilities for Special students and a Gymnasium as well as the normal classrooms found in other Post Primary Schools. These facilities compare favourably with the facilities offered by the other schools in the town.

The record of the school in the past has been exemplary. Many of its past students have accomplished high levels of excellence. Many have joined the teaching profession, others are in business and others, having been awarded Doctorates, are working in the research and medical fields.

Of course the students attending St Patrick's Community College, and future students, need to study in a clean, well-maintained modern building with up to date facilities. A proper analysis has to be done on what is best - upgrade and renovate the present school or move to a new site and build a new school. A proper consultation process should be instigated, with the involvement of students, parents and teachers.
From the little information that has leaked out to date, some local councillors and a developer have been the main people that have been consulted.

There is agreement from Naas UDC for extra land adjacent to St Patrick's Community College to be made available to it for expansion. This would enable the school to continue to provide for the educational needs of the students that it traditionally served. If St. Patrick's Community College were to relocate to the Sallins Road, many of the students at present within walking distance of the school would have to be bussed to the relocated school or else transfer to one or other of the existing Post Primary schools in the town putting extra space demands on them, which would have to be met by further extensions to these schools.

There are proposals before Co Kildare VEC to swap the present school site for a site on the Sallins Road, owned by a development company. The present school site has been conservatively valued at £5m. The site on the Sallins road is zoned green belt. Because of this, it is valued at £460,000, which is a reasonable value, as the developer cannot build on it because of the zoning put on it by Naas UDC. The developer is also prepared to donate £3.54m towards the building of the new school. The package then would be that the developer would be getting a site worth at least £5m for a contribution of £4m. The Department of Education and Science are not happy with this and have asked Co Kildare VEC to renegotiate with the developer. However the VEC are satisfied with the deal and want to swap. Why?

Finally, there are proper planning and development considerations. Is it proper that the town should be deprived of an area designated in the last Development Plan as Green Belt and why are Naas Urban Councillors so anxious to eliminate this green belt? It is easy to understand the motivation of the developers, but the councillors should explain exactly their position.

St. Patrick's Community College needs immediate upgrading and the unsustainable relocation debacle has stopped plans to do this, and is most unfair to students, their parents and their teachers. It is time to call a halt.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

People of Naas 'missing out' in closed meetings?

NAAS, 31 January, 2001: OPINION by John Kavanagh. As a parent I have a right to know what is happening in this town regarding my child's education. I hear councillors talking about 5-8 year waiting lists for the schools. I saw as part of a huge rezoning at the last town plan we were getting a new park and new schools. Before the last election I saw a sign go up on the Sallins road promising a school. I was reminded of the situation many years ago where in the planning for the Monread Triangle where a school and a church were shown in the original plans. Both fell by the wayside as more and more was rezoned for housing. It was only when the people of the area stood up and said 'no more' that the developers encroachment was stopped. 
Looking at Oldtown, I see the same as potentially happening. Since the rezoning of Oldtown the only planning permission I see is for over 300 houses. The Department of Education has apparently not received an application on the school on the Sallins road. I was at the last meeting of the council where this was discussed, as an interested member of the public. I learned from this that the school that the Parish Priest was proposing was smaller than the one that the sign on the Sallins road at the time of the rezoning had said. I see no reason why I should be excluded this time.

I wonder what more am I and the people of Naas missing out on by being excluded from this meeting? 
By the way, look at the web pages of Naas UDC you will see that most recent minutes of meetings there  are july 99 hardly a reflection of openness.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

UDC should not have 'secret' meetings

NAAS, 8 January, 2001: OPINION by Donal Corcoran. I would like to comment on the matter of the secret and "in committee" meetings held by Naas U.D.C. during the last seven years. Councillors are elected to act in the public interest at all times. It is important that not only would they do that but that they be seen to do that. In this era of supposed "openess and transparency" secret and in committee meetings have little place in the working of Local Authorities. The general public not only want to be aware of the decisions taken by the Local Authority but they also want to be aware of why they take the decisions that they do take.
During my time on Naas U.D.C. there were few secret and in committee meetings and I can remember just about six and these were about delicate matters where personal details of people were discussed usually about arrears of rent. The County Manager at that time Mr. G. Ward, held the view that certain planning matters should be held in committee and was supportet by a minority of Councillors but this was not a view supported by the majority.
All other matters were discussed with the Press present, apart from the Private meetings held by some of the Councillors where in some instances the real decisions were taken.
I would be in general agreement with the views of Councillor Glennon as detailed in your report. But where I would not agree with her is her stance on Planning matters remaining private. Why should the deliberations of Councillors on planning matters be private? Some of the planning decisions of Naas U.D.C. during the three decades when I was a local authority member were "pecular" to say the least, but at least the debates were carried out in public and could be reviewed by the public. Some of the decisions taken during the last seven years are very difficult to understand and indeeed are no less "peculiar" but we don’t know how these decisions were arrived at because of the secrecy.
The Planning process in Naas, in my view is chaotic. We don't know the views of Councillors or Officials on the Traffic Crisis or the Housing Crisis because these are too sensitive for us to hear. We can only judge them by what they do when they encourage development that could be injurious to the proper planning and development of Naas.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one. KNN reserves the right to edit any material submitted.

Congratulations, Minister!

KILDARE GENERAL, 5 January, 2001: OPINION by John Sweeney. Kildare Planning Alliance extends its congratulations to Minister Noel Dempsey on his reported intervention in the Co. Kildare planning process in order to enforce the Strategic Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Region.

Enforcement of these recommendations by Kildare County Council has been a cornerstone of the policy of the Kildare Planning Alliance and the Alliance is delighted that its many representations to the Minister on this topic have now proven successful.

We look forward to the Minister's involvement achieving the radical changes to the Co. Kildare planning process that the Department of the Environment and Local Government has now made mandatory. Kildare Planning Alliance has always been committed to the orderly development of County Kildare and has always supported strategic planning policies designed to achieve this. It endorsed the Strategic Planning Guidelines when they were published and have since frequently echoed the Minister's repeated urgings that compliance with them be strictly enforced.

These Guidelines are designed to ensure that future development is channelled into areas where infrastructure can be more easily provided. They also provide for open greenbelt areas in which commuter-related growth will not be catered for and for which publicly paid for infrastructure will not be supplied. Compliance with them became mandatory on January 1st and the Minister has moved swiftly using Section 31 of the new Act to begin the process of bringing non compliant local authorities to heel.

In the case of Co. Kildare, repeated assurances from councillors, senior officials, and the consultancy firm brought in to advise on individual town plans (incidentally the same firm which drew up the Strategic Planning Guidelines), have now proven inadequate and Ministerial intervention has been deemed necessary. Kildare Planning Alliance warned of this eventuality repeatedly over the past year. As a result of this non-compliance, the County Council now faces the prospect of reopening of the 1999 County Development Plan, together with a number of ongoing town plans, and undertaking a scaling back of population projections for a number of towns and villages in the county.

Where towns lie in the hinterland area their population growth provision is required to reflect natural growth only, without in-migration being a factor. For towns such as Clane a radical revision of their draft Development Plan is now required. For the towns within the 'metropolitan area' revisions of their population targets should now also be undertaken to comply with the guidelines. For example the Guidelines advocate limited further growth for the towns of north Kildare, such as Maynooth, Kilcock, Celbridge and Leixlip.

This is the third time in five years however that a Minister for the Environment has rejected Kildare's efforts as defective, a situation which must give cause for concern. For the third time he has condemned some of the population targets in the County Development Plan as excessive and expressed concern that sustainable development policies were not being followed. Kildare Planning Alliance welcomes the responsible exercise of authority which the Minister is displaying and looks forward to seeing the radical steps which the law now requires being implemented by the County Council in full.

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Sudsy ducks can oil their feathers

NAAS, 3 January, 2001: OPINION by John Kavanagh. I note Cllr Charlie Byrne’s concern on the lakes and the wash water from the Esmondale Estate. But I wonder is he also aware of another source of pollution of the lakes? Visual and chemical pollution due to the recent drainage works on the Ballymore Road. Alongside the lakes and series of new drains has been put in to drain the road. Leading from these drains are earthworks and if one follows these they lead to a set of orange pipes which one can clearly see just above the surface of the lakes.
In laying these pipes both the earth banks and the path were dug up and neither have been restored to their former condition (which my daughter underlined by tripping on the path). While walking there yesterday I noticed that the water coming from these pipes was brown and oily in colour. I would also guess that this water also contained considerable quantities of other chemicals that may come off the salted roads. So now not only can the ducks wash in the suds of Esmondale, they also can oil their feathers and have a bit of salt for their tea from the roads of Lakeside Park. And when the water level drops a bit in the summer there will be a load of new lakeshore homes for rats.

ED: Please note that views expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one.

Celbridge quote has proven prophetic, planning alliance says

CELBRIDGE, 28 December, 2000: OPINION by John Sweeney, PRO, Kildare Planning Alliance. It was in an end of year review in a local newspaper this month in 1996 that a list of the ten best Quotes of the Year was featured. One of these was by the Joint PRO of Kildare Planning Alliance and read:

"The first draft of the Celbridge Development Plan will be a work of fiction and the amended draft will terrify you."

Four years later the truth of this was born out by the comments and anger of the people of Celbridge at the recent Information Meeting convened by the Co. Council concerning the Amended Draft Development Plan now on display. In an outpouring of feeling, both the elected representatives and Council officials were left in no doubts that many residents of Celbridge were outraged by the proposals in the Amended Plan.

This was entirely understandable. In late 1998, the first draft of the Celbridge Development Plan was prepared by Kildare County Council. A decision was taken then that the forthcoming Celbridge Plan did not require additional residential rezoning as there was adequate unused lands available to cater for its projected growth. Indeed there was sufficient land for over 6,000 extra people to be accommodated in Celbridge which had a population of 12,289 at the last census - a 50% increase in people and traffic. The Council accepted this policy of zero rezoning for Celbridge when the proposal to display the Draft Plan was put to a full meeting in late 1998. Following the three month display period, amendments proposed by the public were forwarded for consideration to Kildare County Council who had ample opportunity to consider them before voting on the County Development Plan in April 1999. Once again the proposal that Celbridge had adequate lands to reach its population target of 16,400 in 2006 was enshrined in the County Development Plan, which was overwhelmingly adopted by a full meeting of Kildare Co. Council. At the time it was frequently stated that the County Development Plan was a contract with the people and that it would provide the definitive framework for individual town plans. Indeed the words used in the 1999 County Plan make the picture very clear:

"The individual Development Plans for those towns, where these have not yet been adopted, will be governed by those target populations, and residential lands will be zoned in those plans, where required, to a level not greater than the zoning amounts set out in this Development Plan."

A most spectacular U-turn is now underway. Now we are told that things have changed. Now the Council have decided to ignore the commitments given in the 1999 County Plan. Undertakings which appeared unshakeable little over a year ago are now being discarded. What has changed in a little over a year? Has the town grown more slowly than anticipated? Has the traffic become lighter than expected? Has the infrastructural provision increased significantly? ? Are the professional planners recommending new rezonings? What has brought about the present situation where, it seems, more rezoning is required to satisfy needs on a number of fronts. It appears another 86 acres, equivalent to a further 2,000 people or 3,000 cars, are to be catered for in Celbridge, in addition to the already existing population commitment of 6,000 from the original landbank. Kildare Planning Alliance condemns this exercise in planning.

More than most towns, Celbridge has suffered from inadequate infrastructure in recent years. The debacle of the relief road that never was, the traffic lights that never worked and other infrastructural constraints that were never fully delivered on, have reduced the quality of life in this once most pleasant town. Now it appears further substantial rezoning is the medicine envisaged. The people of Celbridge deserve better.

John Sweeney, PRO, KPA

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Is election prospect prompting attitude change?

CELBRIDGE, 21 December, 2000: OPINION by Mike Parle, Kildare Planning Alliance. Are we beginning, to see the beginning, of the beginning, of some small change in attitude that has been dragged from those in power.  Is the fear of a negative outcome of the next election strong enough for long-term change to occur?
We believe that the accusation of "local conflict with the strategic planning guidelines for the Dublin area", will become a mantra, that will help protect communities in Kildare and adjoining counties from 'piece-meal development', that merely fulfils private political party agendas rather than the communities themselves.
Perhaps it is too little, too late for the political parties.  Some say that they have had their chance, they enjoyed their day in the sun. Perhaps moves like the decision of Marian Harkin to go as an Independent for Sligo/Leitrim and the strong consideration of the new South Meath Planning Alliance to run a candidate is merely a peep into a new world of Irish political development where local democracy and accountability will come into their own? Was South Tipperary merely a blip, a hiccough on the political landscape?
Recent research showed that 50% of Irish citizens 'do not trust politicians'. In a democracy this is scary stuff. It is worth saying that local Independents with the standing and reputation of Marian Harkin are trusted. It is probably this trust, and the availability of a credible alternative that will make the difference at the next National General Election.

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Welcomes playground news

NAAS, 17 October, 2000: OPINION by John Kavanagh. I am delighted that the UDC has decided to commit finally to putting a playground in place in Naas and has indicated its support for residents associations who are seeking to put one in themselves. Playgrounds have so much to offer the community and it is important that this exercise is carried out as soon as possible. There are currently around 5,000 children under the age of 14 in the Naas UDC electoral area, yet there are no public playgrounds.

Some key points on play grounds are as follows:

Child Development - Play is essential to the healthy growth and normal development of children. The opportunity to play in a safe outdoor environment such as playground is vital for developing motor skills and co-ordination and is essential for their mental health, intellectual development and acquisition of social skills.

Health - The seeds of heart disease are sown in childhood, says Dr Vincent Martin, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation. The more exercise that children take, the quicker excess fat is cleared from the circulation, and if children don’t exercise, they are storing up problems for later in life. Currently the DOH is embarking on a major exercise to promote healthy lifestyles. Adult habits are learned in childhood. Children need to learn how to play and to enjoy themselves by being physically active. Our society is very competitive and prizes are only awarded for winning rather than participating. Unfortunately, schools are not big into exercise, instead they tend to cream off the best at sports leaving the majority to spectate. Even the PEAI (the representative body for PE teachers) states this. A playground is somewhere every child can participate and everybody is a winner if they take exercise. If the UDC provides play facilities, parents will do their part to ensure today’s children don’t become the next generation of couch potatoes.

Safety - There are still some areas in the town where it is safe for children to play but with ever-increasing numbers of cars and little regard for speed limits even within housing estates, safety is a concern for every parent. While the UDC is making efforts to reduce car speeds, this is at a considerable cost and will take time for all estates to be covered

Social and Community - A public playground would be used by everyone in the community and would be an ideal place for fostering community spirit. Many families in Naas cannot afford to travel to places outside Naas to use play facilities and cannot meet the cost and space requirements for play equipment at home. The parents who are able to take their children to other playgrounds outside Naas are also spending money outside of the town, money which could be kept in Naas if play facilities were available. This going elsewhere is something, I note from previous reports in KNN, is on the business community’s mind

I am aware that several issues and concerns were discussed at the UDC meetings, including insurance, cost, location, supervision and vandalism. Insurance. The the cost of insurance is automatically covered in the UDC policy provided the playground is built to recognised standards. Thus the playgrounds would add nothing to the UDC's bill. Insurance is also addressed in RoSPA?s Children's Playgrounds, which I understand the Irish association for Leisure Management has issued to town clerk Declan Kirrane

Cost - I understand that a small sum of money has been earmarked for playgrounds in the past (£10,000) and the UDC has spoken of raising a loan of £90,000. It will cost the UDC to service this loan. I wonder about looking for sponsorship from local businesses who might in future be recruiting people and business into Naas. Banks and business in the town have benefited a lot from the young families that have moved to Naas - I wonder would they like to further show solidarity with these families. Other sources might include KELT who would appear to be supportive of family-friendly initiatives.

Supervision and Inspection - Talking with New Ross and other UDCs suggest this would not be too demanding. Examination of the guidelines would agree with this. Perhaps a community/UDC public service partnership might work.

Vandalism - Perhaps if the children channelled their energy into playing, they would stop destroying the town. The issue of vandalism has been overcome by other public authorities and is addressed in RoSPA?s Children's Playgrounds. A publication which PUP sent to councillors earlier this year was ‘Giving young people a space of their own’.

Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states: "The child shall have full opportunity to play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education: society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right."

All this and more was stated in a letter by PUP to the UDC seeking an opportunity to meet with the UDC seeking to work in partnership with the UDC for the benefit of the community of Naas.

While personally I am delighted that the council has shown its commitment to putting play grounds into Naas, I am disappointed at the attitude the Chair has taken towards parents who wished to offer the benefit of their research into this area. He said that (only) when the UDC programme is in place, would the Council meet with a local group of parents seeking to assist in setting up playgrounds in estates (PUP).

Members of PUP have, as I am sure you can see from the above, done a lot of research into this area and would have liked to have passed on the benefit of their research and experience (national and international in this area). PUP have seen strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of other playgrounds and they would like to have (working in partnership) offered Declan Kirrane and his hard-working team the benefit of this. They would have liked to have worked in partnership with those setting up the UDC programme. In gathering the hundreds of names on the PUP petition to the UDC, many comments were heard that might have benefited the UDC's processes and have been approached by people who indicated an ability and willingness to provide practical assistance to the issue of play grounds in the town.

Anyway, lets move forward. I want to restate my thanks to the UDC. I hope that with the other child-friendly initiative they have taken in the area - i.e. the speed ramps - that the parents of Naas will by next summer have at least one safe child-friendly public playground in the town.

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Is Naas UDC spending money correctly to meet needs?

NAAS, 1 September, 2000: OPINION by John Kavanagh. I am glad to see that your article highlights the fact that the paving over of the swimming pool field (above) is permanent type not the temporary arrangement as others have alluded to. In the estimates on the cost of doing this job presented at the last UDC meeting I did not hear any mention the cost of restoring the parkland to its former state once the "temporary" car park has served its function i.e facilitated the developer who obtained the existing car park in the town, at a price of what I and others feel (see earlier KNN article), was a discounted price.

This lack of budget provision would lead me to believe that once this area of open space is lost it is lost for ever. Even if it ceases to be a carpark no provision has been made to restore it to its former state. (I did not see either what provision has been made for the environmental impact of the run-off from this car park on the lakes and water course that lies at the foot of this car park.)

I also note information received recently that the swimming pool field does not belong to the UDC and they are making decisions on land that does not belong to them. First of all they re-christen the swimming pool that they do not own, now they lay claim to an area that they do not own!

What do the owners of this land have to say to their plans? Has the cost of acquiring this land been factored into the costs? Looking at the huge monies involved in this provision, surely it is time for the UDC to admit that a mistake was made in the putting of the town's main car park into private ownership?

Additionally, surely the towns policy makers have to wake up and realise that amenities such as these open spaces are vital green lungs and amenities that must be treasured. Housing densities are set to increase due to the new planning act, and more and more of the open areas around the town are due to be are paved over and built upon. Green areas must be protected for the people of NAAS/KILDARE. If there are to be any amendments to the town plan, these amendments must be for the benefit of the people of Naas.

I feel the monies involved can be better spent in the provision/completion of amenities in the town. Why is a car park is needed? why not look at a start-of-pipe as opposed to an end-of-pipe solution? Why not allow the development of some shopping facilities outside the overcrowded town centre?

If the UDC allows the development of facilities such as supermarkets where the population that use them are based, people will not need to park in the town centre. These places will provide their own parking at no expense to the town, leaving the UDC coffers free to be spent on such matters as finishing the Monread Park, protecting the town’s assets from incursions, putting in playgrounds and other amenities.

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Red light on signals delivery

LEIXLIP, 22 August 2000: OPINION by Cllr Catherine Murphy. Traffic signals were ordered for Main Street Leixlip last November. I sought and it is minuted in November 1999 that a delivery date should be included in the order/tender for these lights simply because I felt it would go on and on otherwise. I have a letter from the Council stating a delivery date for January and, later, another one saying they will be installed in early April.

Nothing happened, and I next received a commitment from town manager Tommy Skehan at our Leixlip TC July meeting that they would be installed by the end of July. Nothing happened. The next date I was given by the Council was 7th August. Again nothing happened.

This week I have been told the electrical contractor was meeting with a company to do the Civil Works. I know that meeting took place I have been assured the lights will be installed very soon after that meeting.

The collective spending power of the Local Authorities Nationally needs to be used to assist in both its buying power and its capacity to deliver. I am convinced that where log jams are identified, such as the one with Traffic Lights, what needs to happen is that a person is appointed between all the LAs with the brief to locate alternative suppliers with guarantees of delivery outside the country if it is not possible to supply them within. The management of the growth in our economy requires us to deal with issues of delivery of infrastructure.

When the Leixlip/Maynooth/Kilcock by-pass was opened the relevant minister talked about the time being cut of the average journey from some western towns to Dublin. The reality is that the two major industries and the population of Leixlip have been experiencing, over the past year, unacceptable delays at all times of the day and night because of one set of faulty traffic lights. There is a personal cost in this to the individuals and there is also a cost to the economy in such inefficiency and a cost to the environment in Main Street Leixlip with constant traffic jams. It is this kind of an issue on which the public measure the ability of the Local Authorities to deliver.

Clearly there is a problem. It is necessary to seek ways of overcoming it. A collective response by the Local Authorities is one way which should be examined.

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Pious platitudes ... but no playground

NAAS, 11 August 2000: OPINION by Anthony G McAllister. 9 St Gabriel's Place. It is with interest I read the comments of the Naas UDC in connection with the preservation of green areas around the town when they themselves have been instrumental in the destruction of same.

The Pairc Na nOg playground is no more despite all the pious platitudes emanating from the Town Hall. What other local authority in the country would allow a builders compound desecrate children’s playing fields without any sign of removal? Where else but Naas would one see the daily spillage of building debris on a section of same in the sure and certain knowledge that the damage is terminal and that the quizzical docile populace can "eat cake"?

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Queries school 'swap' plans

NAAS, 4 August 2000: OPINION by Donal Corcoran, St Patrick's Community College TUI Representative. In relation to the proposal to hand over St. Patrick's Community College to a Developer in exchange for a site near Sallins, where is the forward planning for this in the Naas Development Plan, in the Department of Education, or in the Co Kildare Vocational Education Committee strategy for improving educational facilities in Naas? Or are we seeing developers now deciding on what educational facilities we should be getting in Naas and where these should be provided?

Where do the Educational Partners come into this, the students, parents and the teachers. Is this what they want? Has anybody consulted with them? Are there good educational reasons for moving the school from this area given that many of the students are within walking distance. This is the newest Second Level school in Naas. Why should there be a necessity to move to another site? Space is not a problem as agreement has been reached on the provision of extra land adjacent to the school. Would this happen with the other two second level schools in the town? I think not.

As School Representative for the Teacher's Union of Ireland in St Patrick's Community College I have called for consultation with Teachers before any decisions are taken. This has not happened to date. I now call for consultations with Parents and Students. And I ask that all decisions taken are taken for Educational reasons and not just to facilitate developers plans for our town.

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Supports Devoy proposal for affordable/social housing

NAAS, 4 August 2000: OPINION by John Kavanagh, 52, Kingsfurze, Naas. At recent UDC meetings I have been hearing a lot about the lack of a land bank for the development of social housing for the 256 (or so) people from the area who are applications on the UDC housing list. I also in my early a.m walks see people sleeping on the street and read reports of families existing through the day in cars when ousted from their Health Board-provided B&B's.

An ideal site already in state hands is the old barracks on the Newbridge road. Previously Cllr McCarthy had proposed a motion calling for the UDC to bid for the site. Despite being passed by the council, this bid apparently did not go forward.

In the last meeting of the UDC the chairman raised the point that he did not see why the UDC should have to buy the lands from the Department of the Defence. Both are funded are by the taxpayer. Surely the land should just be passed from one to the other? This point makes sense, keeping the people’s assets in the hands of the people and making them available for the benefit of the people that need help. The chairman was aware of another instance in Cork where this had occurred.

The alternative is for the Department of Defence to sell the land to a private individual and the UDC to put in for a grant to buy land to meet its needs. The winner in this case is the private sector at the expense of the people of Naas and environs who need help.

It appears that the sale by tender of the barracks site was not successful. I wonder would the way be now open to start again to get the UDC to procure this site either by (a) purchase (b) lobby the DofE to get the DofD to hand the site over to the UDC, using the arguments put forward by Cllr Mc Carthy, Cllr Egan, and the chairman at the last meeting? While I know the UDC is on recess, is there any way of getting them to make an offer or to lobby for support from central Government (when FF ministers get back from Galway).

Of course there is a previous motion down and accepted that the UDC should make an offer on the site. If the UDC did secure this site for social housing it would only be carrying out the mandate which was already agreed at a previous meeting. I see in your earlier report this week, Cllr Conway said with the way Naas is developing, the UDC is going to be ‘flush with money from rates ... our finances are absolutely secure’. Perhaps now is the time to go out and put in place much-needed community amenities such as well planned social housing and play areas, for the future of Naas children?

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'Positive spin' plans have faults

KILDARE NORTH, 26 July 2000: OPINION by John Sweeney, Kildare Planning Alliance. In an embarrassing display of togetherness, Kildare County Councillors (bar one) voted on Monday to display the Draft Development Plans for Maynooth, Clane, Kill and Kilcock. Positive spin was put on each of these by their respective area councillors, despite the extent to which they condemn the towns concerned to, in some cases, huge growth of population and traffic over the next five years.

This stage of the planning process was supposed to be guided by the Strategic Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area produced by the consultants Brady Shipman and Martin. In this document a two-fold distinction was made for Kildare between Metropolitan areas and Hinterland areas. Maynooth and Kilcock fall into the former category and were specifically recommended in the report for ‘limited further development’. Despite this, and evidence already emerging that these towns are growing faster than intended in the County Development Plan, councillors voted to rezone enough land to more than quadruple the size of Kilcock and add 50% to the population of Maynooth, as compared to the last census figures. This was called "sustainable development". Some positive aspects such as non-development-led ring roads and new recreational spaces can be welcomed for these two towns, though much greater clarification of the detail is necessary before a true assessment of such potential benefits can be made.

Development outside selected urban centres in the Hinterland area was to be ‘strictly limited to local need’ in the Strategic Guidelines. Clane and Kill fall into these categories. Once again, on the recommendations of the consultant, ‘local need’ was interpreted as providing 100% increases in population! Rezonings were proposed accordingly.

Kildare Planning Alliance regrets the extent to which Brady Shipman Martin in drafting the various plans have ignored their own recommendations and suggests major questions now need to be asked regarding their role in the whole procedure. It is not good enough to repeat the mantra that "people have to live somewhere" as a professional explanation for their failure to comply with their own Strategic Guidelines. Interestingly, at no time was the major Brady Shipman Martin conclusion for the Greater Dublin Region quoted by the consultant present namely that: "Currently zoned, though not necessarily serviced residential land could accommodate two thirds of the anticipated growth in household numbers up to 2011".

Several areas of concern exist in the procedures by which these draft plans have emerged. Firstly, unauthorised changes appear to have been made between meetings of area councillors in the case of at least one of the town plans. Secondly, lands subject to flooding, lands adjacent to high voltage transmission lines, and lands which bisect stud farms, have all been rezoned for housing in contravention of policy enunciated in the County Development Plan. Thirdly, ring roads and relief roads which figure prominently in most of the plans remain vague in terms of how they will be financed. In the case of Maynooth, part of the key ring road on which the logic of the plan depends is located in County Meath. Finally the donation of land parcels to sports clubs in several towns is questionable on several grounds.

In condemning village communities to a future as bloated commuting towns, the actions of the Council on Monday will long be remembered. In the Clane Development Plan, for example, page 6 states that: "The danger is that Clane develops as a dormitory suburb of Dublin and the town’s unique character is swamped by a sea of anonymous housing estates." Yet this is precisely what is now likely to occur in several locations.

Finally, although never formally discussed at council level, the donation of water and waste water treatment facilities for 1,500 people to a neighbouring county forms part and parcel of the Kilcock Plan. One assumes we will never again be asked to conserve water in Kildare! This generous donation provides for a potential population of 9,000 for this town of 1,825 (1996 Census). Elected representatives and county officials would do well to remember that it was this town which voted overwhelmingly in 1996 to reject a similar development trajectory, and which may once again demonstrate its determination to retain its identity in the face of this latest attempt to swamp it.

The plans are likely to go on display in early August for a period of three months. Kildare Planning Alliance urges careful consideration of them by the residents of each town concerned and will provide further comments on them during the display period.

ED: Please note that opinions expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one.

Kildare is robbed again!

KILDARE GENERAL, 25 July 2000: OPINION by Cllr Catherine Murphy. A ‘cloak of secrecy’ covering the rationale behind the recent £20m distribution of Motor Tax funds to local authorities needs urgent explanation. In the share-out, Leitrim received the highest per capita allocation at £228.76, followed by Longford with £199.23 and Roscommon with £172.98. The national county average was £108.10 while Kildare, which has one of the largest traffic volumes in the country passing through it, received just £74.22 per capita.

The £20m which comes from buoyancy in the Motor Taxation Fund was the first allocation following an unpublished report to the minister for local government from Galway County & City Councils, where a needs and resources study was conducted by them on the minister’s behalf. Ironically a whopping 36% increase over their 1999 allocation saw Galway well rewarded for the task.

Authorities like Kildare, South Dublin, Fingal, Meath and Wicklow, who are experiencing massive population inflation did poorly by comparison. The situation cannot continue where these Counties are required to accept ever increasing population and car numbers with no compensation for that growth, in effect putting existing population of these counties at a considerable disadvantage.

When Motor Taxation was ring-fenced as the source of funding Local Authorities, an equalisation fund was to be a feature where a percentage of the Motor Taxation Fund from the wealthier counties would be allocated to the poorer counties. In effect the combination of inflation in the economy and population inflation is eating up any increases in the most densely populated part of the State making them the poor relation.

The minister must explain the bias on the recent £20 million. He must explain how the equalisation fund will work, he must explain why an increase in population does not mean an increase in income to the relevant authority. He must explain to counties like Kildare and ironically Meath why he continues to put pressure on them to expand and does not provide them with the resources to manage the expansion.

ED: Please note that opinions expressed under 'OPINION' on KNN are those of the writer concerned, and do not necessarily reflect the views of KNN or its proprietors. This facility is provided in the interests of free speech and public information and may be availed of either to make a point or respond to one.