I’ve been meeting people across the district and discussing the issues. A common feeling that I’ve picked up on is that Newbridge is seeing too many challenges and not enough benefits in being the largest town in Kildare. The next council must take steps to redress this.
ROADS & TRANSPORT
In roads and transport, the council MUST now make a new bridge for Newbridge it’s top roads infrastructure priority and commit to the traffic management plan for the town by including these as objectives in the upcoming Newbridge Local Area Plan.
I will advocate for a special fund to be established – with national support – to focus on routes which have seen increased traffic in recent years as they’ve become rat-runs due to the extensive roadworks throughout the county. This fund should have three elements: 1) Road repair, 2) safety enhancement 3) noise abatement through tree planting.
Promote the Community Childcare model. Community Childcare is like the credit union of creches. It’s run by a voluntary board on a not-for-profit basis and exists to support the local community. But Community Childcare models make up less than 10% of all childcare facilities in Ireland. Kildare CoCo can change this by supporting – through policy and finance – the development of these facilities.
The council also needs to lobby for LEADER funding to be made available to childcare facilities. In recent years childcare projects have been excluded from such funding.
In many large shopping centers, you’ll find drop-off childminding facilities which allow parents to get their shopping done. I’d like to see a similar project piloted in Newbridge that would provide childcare services in the town centre run by the council. If successful, we could bring more footfall back to main street but also allow parents without formal childcare arrangements to get an hour here and there to get their shopping done, take a course/class or attend an appointment or job interview.
ENVIRONMENT – TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE
Bord Na Mona has committed to closing all of its 62 active bogs by 2025. It’s vital that County Kildare is a part of this change. We have a wealth of energy sector knowledge in Bord na Mona and I’d like to see Kildare CoCo tap into that and develop Newbridge as an innovative hub for start-up businesses focused on the next generation of energy production.
Providing better cycling and pedestrian facilities is directly within the council’s responsibility and an area that needs serious attention throughout our district. By building safe, designated paths we can help encourage some students and shoppers to leave the car at home, freeing up traffic and reducing our carbon footprint.
We need to resource Tidy Towns groups better and reward them for taking on impactful projects such as pollinator programs, bee-keeping, anti-litter and carbon off-setting initiatives.
Make on-street bins recycling friendly with segregated waste.
CREATING JOBS AND SUPPORTING BUSINESS
In Kildare 55% of our rates are paid by the top 2% of companies. A rates reduction actually benefits them far more than the small retailer and reduces the funding available to other community projects. The answer has to be a targeted rates relief and reimbursement project. A targeted program would support local business owners without depleting a major funding source for the county.
For the last three years I have served as Chair of Co. Kildare Community Networks (CKCN). CKCN is overseeing the development of a €3.5m Digital Hub in Naas. This will provide space for 120 jobs in the tech sector with a focus on new innovative companies and will also cater for businesses coming into Ireland looking for a start-up space. It is my goal to see a series of Innovation Clusters rolled out around the county with different industries supported in different locations. As mentioned above, Newbridge is well placed to support businesses in the energy sector while Kildare Town is ideally located for a development focusing on equine enterprises. This project offers huge potential for jobs in County Kildare.
Over the last five years I’ve advocated for local property tax to be put towards tangible projects that can be enjoyed in the local community. Through this initiative the council have funded brand new playgrounds in Caragh, Sallins and Kill. With one of the youngest populations in the country it’s important that Kildare County Council focuses on the needs of young families and provides these facilities. Developing playgrounds in the town centre is also a great way to drive regular footfall to the main street.
I want to make sure that Kildare County Council is not only doing what it should but is delivering as much as it possibly can for the county.