The Naas district covers an area from the Dublin border in Kilteel, south to Kilcullen and Ballymore taking in Naas and the surrounding villages and townlands. The CSO tells us it has a population of around 50,000 of which the average person is only two years older than they were at the last census five years ago! We are the only district in Kildare that has a net inflow of commuters each day. We are a district of 18,000 houses but as I write this, only 25 for rent. There are certainly both challenges and opportunities facing our district and I’m honoured to have been elected Mayor for the year ahead.
With the short time available to me in my role as Mayor I’ve tried to bring structure to my priorities. I’ve distilled my focus into three areas under which all of my efforts will be concentrated. I share them for several reasons: accountability is one, but your feedback is another.
I look forward to meeting as many individuals and groups as possible over the coming year and hearing their input on how the Naas district can be shaped for the years ahead.
One thing that has struck me since joining the council is the level of concern that people have in not being involved in decision making. Rightly or wrongly this is the perception. The council will always meet their public consultation requirements but we must strive to go further than simply that which is required of us as a minimum.
I will ensure that as we begin the Naas Town Development Plan next year that we hold public meetings to gather feedback. We will also use social media to allow people to engage in the debate online and incorporate constructive feedback into the plan.
As the youngest member of the council, I want use my position as Mayor to work with young people across the district and get their input on projects too. Who are we designing a development plan for if not for them?
I also want Naas Municipal District to become the first district in the country to incorporate public comment into the formal monthly meeting. Starting from September, I will be encouraging people from the around the district (Ballymore, Brannockstown, Kilcullen, Two Mile House, Caragh, Johnstown, Kill, Kilteel, Naas, Rathmore/Eadestown and Sallins) to take to Twitter to share their ideas. I will then bring those suggestions for mention on the meeting agenda. It couldn’t be easier to get started, just add #NaasMD (Naas Municipal District) to allow us to hear your feedback.
I believe that in order for our district to prosper we must have a strong economy. So much vibrancy has been lost in our village and town core’s to the shopping centres of Dublin and out of town retail parks. We can’t stop consumers driving 30km to a shopping centre, but we can focus our efforts on making what we have more attractive.
In the short term we must look after the retailers and firms that have chosen this district as their place to do business. These are the businesses that have stood by their local town despite challenges down through the years. A stable environment for enterprise is the foundation of future development.
Central to the medium to long term development of Naas is the upcoming development plan. In forming this plan the council, in conjunction with the people of Naas will create a road map that will structure the development of our county town to 2024. This will include the development of core infrastructure such as roads, housing, enterprise and of course our town centre.
I will work with council planners to support the development of housing in the town centre and believe that we must develop a workable programme that supports the redevelopment of main street premises to allow above-shop living. Above shop living will provide housing at a level where it is so badly needed – one and two bedroom apartments at prices affordable to those struggling to meet current market demands.
As the old Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If we’re planning for the future of our district, then efforts to ensure we have a better environment in 10 or 20 years’ time must start today. And I’m glad to say we are already making progress on this front. Later this year we will begin work on a public Dog Park in Monread (subject of course to the recent public consultation), plans for a playground in Caragh will be brought to the public shortly and work is due to commence on the Sallins site toward the end of this year.
Several projects are underway to improve the footpath and cycling networks in and around the town of Naas all of which are there to encourage a more active lifestyle and provide some relief to the existing traffic congestion. I acknowledge the skepticism some of these plans have been met with. We’re planting a tree that should have been planted 20 years ago.
None of these objectives can be achieved in isolation. We can’t develop at the cost of neglecting our environment and we can’t maintain our environment or expect our local businesses to thrive if we don’t engage and take an interest in what’s happening in our own community. We all have a role in the future of our district. As Mayor, I look forward to playing my part in that.