Protecting St. Catherine’s Park

Liffey Champion
Saturday, 18th November, 2017

This week is going to tell us a lot about local politics. Local government has been steadily eroded and the Fine Gael party have been at the forefront of this. Abolishing town councils and bypassing local authorities’ abiity to make judgments on housing developments over 100 houses are just two of the ways recent governments have effectively emasculated local decision-making.

Recently, elected councillors of Kildare voted to amend the Local Area Plan for Leixlip to read “No road proposal shall be considered by the Council through the park within this Council’s ownership or jurisdiction.” The park is of course, St. Catherine’s. It is a welcome addition, though most sensible people would not understand why this should even be required. It’s like putting up a sign saying ‘don’t litter’. Should it not be obvious? Should it even need to be said that one of the province’s best regional parks on the borders of north Kildare and Dublin should need to be so protected?

Well, it would seem so, as the National Transport Authority (an offshoot of the Dept. of Transport) are now pressurising our local and democratically-elected councillors, and the unelected officials. They are telling them, and by extension, us, that such an amendment ‘”omits a potential option to enhance orbital movements…” and therefore the reference should be deleted.

Put another way, the Dept. of Transport still want to put a big road through your park. We should not be fobbed off any longer with such double-speak. And the same powers-that-be won’t stop there. They are also insisting that the local councillors rezone land at Confey for housing, despite no proper planning taking place as regards flooding, road access, water, waste, environmental impacts, archaeological studies, etc. The sensible approach adopted by the elected officials in Kildare was to leave the land zoned as agricultural until such studies took place, and then, and only then, would they consider adopting some form of Confey Masterplan for housing developments.

But this is not good enough for Damien English TD, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, nor his colleague Eoghan Murphy TD. This does not make the figures look good. The Ministers are demanding house numbers, and they are not fussy where they put them. For those reasonably familiar with Leixlip, imagine taking pretty much all the housing stock from Captain’s Hill to the canal (St. Mary’s Park, Avondale, Newtown Glendale, Glendale and Glendale Meadows, River Forest and Woodside), and then duplicating all these houses and dropping them in to a few fields in Confey, north and east of the GAA grounds and the graveyard. About 1,700 houses all told. That’s what is being suggested.

The Save St. Catherine’s Park group is not about housing. It’s about protecting one of the best public amenities in the county. We lobbied Fingal Councillors and they agreed to amend their own development plan to remove any reference to a road through the park. And we are calling on our own councillors to do likewise. As long as there is a threat of a road, we will keep working to remove it. And as you may recall from early versions of the Leixlip Development Plan, housing at Confey would need to be serviced with a big road. A consultancy firm suggested a road through the park. Not only would it cost a fortune, it would also destroy this wonderful amenity. The plan sparked outrage and the road proposal was quickly withdrawn.

What is happening both in Celbridge (Donaghcumper) and here in Leixlip is nothing short of shameful bullying. Ironically, in the current climate of equality and anti-bullying behaviour, you could be forgiven for thinking that this sort of carry on would not be allowed. But this is the way your modern Irish government wishes to run their affairs, and they don’t really appreciate it when we, the local people who would seem to live in the real world, have the temerity to disagree with them. Not only is this allowed, it’s policy.

You may not always agree with your local elected councillor. They may not be from a party you vote for. They may suggest and vote for things that you do not agree with. But on this score, they should not be bullied by any minister, and they need your support.

Get in touch with your councillor and ask them to keep the protection offered to St. Catherine’s Park (Material Alteration 31), and secondly, tell them you want to allow the Masterplan for Confey to be examined properly, prior to any rezoning (Material Alteration 2). Tell Peter Carey, CEO of Kildare County Council too, and his colleague Peter Minnock, Director Of Services – Planning & Strategic Development.

There is a reason why we still have local authorities with elected councillors. And hopefully a reason why there are officials in Aras Chill Dara. They are not there to do the minister’s bidding. Oddly enough, until such time as we really don’t live in a democracy any more, they are there to do ours.

Save St Catherine’s Park Committee

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