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29 Jun 2022

Controversy: Newbridge community anger over changes to park walkway aired at public Kildare meeting

The developers’s plans were criticised by a number of attendees at the meeting

Glenveagh’s promises to Newbridge and no show from Kildare County Council met with scepticism

Newbridge Community Development (NCD) member Orla O' Neill speaking at the event. Also pictured are Independent Chair Ellen Duggan and Jennifer Caffrey of the NCD respectively.

A public consultation that was held in Ryston Hall in Newbridge between Glenveagh Properties and local residents took place last night.

The meeting, which was facilitated by the Newbridge Community Development group (NCD), saw around 160 people attend the event, which ran between 8.30pm and 9.30pm and was independently chaired by Ellen Duggan.

It was held in relation to news of altered development plans at the Liffey Linear Park, which only came to light in recent weeks.

Many of those in attendance were residents of Kilbelin, Liffey Hall and Walshestown, all of which are in close proximity to the development.

BACKGROUND

The new proposals would see pedestrians using the Liffey Linear Park and its extension having to cross the Athgarvan Road at the newly rebuilt Kilbelin House and cross back again to the riverside at The Gables. 

The two controlled pedestrian crossings would be in addition to the realigned major junction between Belin Woods and Liffey Hall and will result in three sets of traffic lights on a 300 metre stretch of road.

This is despite the fact that the initial Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the Belin Woods development ruled out the current proposal back in 2018.

Evonne Boland of the NCD also said last week that planning permission ‘clearly stated that a new pedestrian and cycle link along the river would connect Belin Wood’s open space to the Liffey Linear Park.’

‘HORRIFIED’

Speaking at the start of the event, Ms Boland said that her initial consultation with Glenveagh was an informative and positive experience.

However, she said that when she discovered the alteration to the plan for the Park, she was left ‘horrified.’

She said: "This issue is important for the local residents, as well as for the town on a wider basis, and those who are considering moving into Belin Woods when it is completed.

Evonne Boland of the NCD

"We want to know why it (the planning permission details) changed."

Another member of NCD, Orla O’ Neill, also claimed that Kildare County Council (KCC) only put up the Environmental Assessment Impact Report following their enquiry about the planning permission last month.

It was noted that while Glenveagh had a representative at the meeting, construction director Michael Galvin there were no members from KCC’s planning department present.

Pointing to the initial Environmental report, she said: "It is there in black and white: it is no more complicated than it was in 2018."

Following this, Mr Galvin introduced himself to those in attendance, saying: "It is good to be here tonight to listen to your concerns; Glenveagh are inclined to work with communities.

Some of those in attendance at the consultation 

"There is a lot of work to be done, but we are working closely with KCC."

The floor was then opened up for feedback: first up was Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’ Loughlin, who said that while she appreciated Mr Galvin ’s attendance, she stressed to him the importance of Glenveagh working with independent consultants on the new report on the development.

"I know it will be challenging, but we cannot put a cost on this park," she concluded.

Mr Galvin replied by telling her that he agreed with her that there should be ‘a level of agreement as to who the consultants should be.’

Minister Martin Heydon TD

Fine Gael Minister Martin Heydon TD also told Mr Galvin that the road beside the development ‘was already choc-a-block’ and feared that the new plans, if they were allowed to continue, would result in the area becoming dangerous for pedestrians.

His sentiments were later echoed by a concerned Liffey Hall resident, who said she had two children on the Autism Spectrum, and she also feared that their safety may be compromised if the development was allowed to continue in this way.

ANGER

Minister Heydon added that he was ‘mad’ that he and other local councillors were not informed about the changes made to the planning permission.

"Whatever solution that will be found must be found inside the river," he concluded, which was also echoed by another resident, who stressed the importance of the connection to the river.

In response, Mr Galvin said he would need one more week in order to consult with KCC to go through the details of the application.

Cllr Noel Heavey then took to the floor and recalled a story of a friend of his who was imprisoned for a week for not complying with an unauthorised development.

"There was no reference to the two crossings, it is very simple… I am very mad to hear this news," he said.

At one point, after hearing feedback from another resident of Liffey Hall, Mr Galvin said: "I apologise and agree that there should have been more consultation with local residents."

Michael Galvin , Construction Director with Glenveagh Properties, speaking at the event

When Cllr Peggy O’ Dwyer took to the floor, she notably pointed to an ad by Glenveagh, which read: ‘know where you live, home of the new.’

She added: "Well, I want you to listen to the people of Newbridge and put that path on the riverside."

‘I DON’T TRUST IT’

Following this, Independent Cllr Fiona McLoughlin-Healy: "It seems there is one rule for one side, but another rule for the other.

"It is not good enough, we should not be taken for fools… now, that may not have been Glenveagh’s intention, but that is how people feel."

After enquiring about why the changes were allowed to happen, she said: "I don’t trust it (the changes) on the basis of my own experience… how and why did that direct link go into your planning application, if you hadn’t done everything that was listed just six days ago in your (recent) report to KCC?"

In response, Mr Galvin said: "I can see that this is clearly a serious issue, but we will consult with KCC on this.

"I don’t know where exactly it fell through or why, but I can assure you that we are dealing with this and we will come back to you shortly with a solution."

PROFITS

Ms O’ Neill also pointed to recent profits made by Glenveagh, adding: "Three of its directors had wages of €2.5 million in 2021.

"It just seems that KCC is doing Glenveagh’s job for them on this, but it’s not our job to make profits for Glenveagh."

Other residents also pointed to potential traffic congestion issues and concerns about the impact on biodiversity, a recent incident of alleged unauthorised tree-cutting, and access for emergency vehicles.

Cllr Fiona McLoughlin-Healy (Centre, holding the microphone)

In addition, other politicians in attendance were Social Democrats Cllr Chris Pender, Independent TD  Dr Cathal Berry, Fine Gael Cllr Tracey O’ Dwyer and Mayor Rob Power, the latter of which also said he was ‘disappointed’ to learn that no one from KCC had attended the event.

At one point, Evonne Boland said that members of KCC’s planning department and road engineers with KCC were invited to attend the event, but were unable to attend.

‘MAKING A MOCKERY’

Wrapping up the event, she said: "Our councillors are our representatives and need to tell KCC how we feel, what the council is saying, and ensure that they are exercising their role as overseers.

"There is no wiggle-room here, it was clear in the original report.

"To be honest, it feels like the tail has been wagging the dog here; it feels like the executive (KCC) has been making a mockery of things.

"Ultimately, it feels to me like we have been sold out. This is a massive downgrade, and we have to investigate it.

"We need to fight for this and value it at what it should be valued," she concluded.

A livestream recording of the event can be viewed in full here.

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