Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The need for new Local Councils in East Meath

Not a great week in East Meath. The council, in their wisdom, decided to grant permission to a developer to build another load of houses in a mature estate in Inse Bay, Laytown. The estate has 475 houses at the moment, and these extra houses will be placed on open spaces within the estate. Almost 300 of these householders objected to the proposal, as did all of the local councillors and TDs and still the planners gave the go-ahead. It’s a poor decision in my view. Although technically the proposal conforms to the requirements in relation to residential density and open space requirements, there are significant issues in relation to placing construction traffic in finished, maturing estates with lots of young children running around. Residents are very angry about the situation. I have encouraged people to object to An Bord Pleanala.

On Monday I attended the launch of a new report called “Civic Engagement and the Governance of Irish Suburbs”. It was drawn on evidence-based research carried out in Ratoath. The report was launched by Dr Maureen Gaffney, Chairperson of the National Economic and Social Forum, at Trinity College Dublin’s Policy Institute.

Myself, Dr Maureen Gaffney and Councillor Joe Bonner at the launch

The study recommends that local voluntary associations be given a statutory role in local government and that community fora be established to support the involvement of residents in decision-making. How apt that the report should be published in the same week as the Inse Bay planning decision mentioned above. If we had a local council for the Laytown / Bettystown area then there would be more accountability in the planning process, with planners working on the ground and based in the area, not 20 miles away in Navan. Areas such as Laytown / Bettystown, as well as Ashbourne, now have populations of over 6,000 – in excess of towns such as Kells and Trim which already have local town councils. My view is that we should extend local democracy by providing statutory authorities for our growing East Meath towns. This might help to get more community-minded decisions from the planners.

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