Sunday, January 28, 2007

 

Walking Rights for Meath

Most of my this week was spent on the review of the County Development Plan. We met in Navan on Monday until 11pm, Tuesday until half eleven and then again on Thursday when we concluded at 9pm. In all, we debated 101 motions put forward by Councillors.

I had a fair few motions down. A lot of them dealt with issues such as walking rights or way, cycling routes and the like. Some of these were accepted; others were not. On my three key motions I was successful with two, but one motion fell.

One of my favourite pastimes in hill-walking, and I’ll go to the ends of the earth to enjoy this. Last year I went to New Zealand to do the Kepler Track and the year before I went climbing in Venezuela.

Hillwalking in Venezuela
In Venezuela, the Caribbean in the background

So, I was keen to get a motion in to try to open up County Meath to Hill Walkers. I got the following policy inserted into the County Plan:

That this Council will engage with external bodies to obtain internal and external resources to complete a list of existing public rights of way within two years of the adoption of this plan. This list will be accompanied by detailed maps showing actual routes and the appropriate signage will be put in place.”

I’ll be keeping an eye on the Manager to make sure he delivers on this commitment.

I also put a motion down in relation to open spaces in estates. I spoke about the fact that the residents of Inse Bay in Laytown felt cheated by the developer. They bought houses thinking they were getting open space in front of them and then the developer came back and got permission for more houses. I mentioned that this was a worry for other estates, including Brindley Park in Ashbourne and Ledwidge Hall in Slane.

In December I noticed that Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown has adopted a motion in their plan to stop this happening. I spoke to a few of our councillors there and basically, used the fine work they had done to put forward the following Motion:

"That this Council agrees to vary its County Development Plan to include the statement “no residential developments may take place in open green spaces that are the subject of a deed of dedication or identified in a planning application as open space

This was seconded by Councillor Jim Holloway (thanks very much Jim!) accepted by the members, and is now on its way to becoming official policy in County Meath. Unfortunately, it’s too late for Inse Bay residents, but hopefully it will stop such events occurring in the future.

I also put forward a Motion that the plan includes a bypass of Julianstown. I spoke in the Council about the need for a bypass as traffic levels are back where they were in the year 2000. Traffic is increasing all the time. I presented an analysis showing that the benefits of a bypass to our community would far out weigh the cost. I also told the chamber that in my view the M1 was not actually a bypass of Julianstown, since a lot of the traffic using Julianstown is coming from Drogheda and East Meath and not just avoiding the toll.

Other Councillors were supportive, but the County Manager felt that, whilst the initial analysis (done by the Julianstown Residents Association) looked very promising, more detailed analysis is needed to make the case more rigorous.

The Director of Infrastructure went further, saying that, since traffic through Julianstown exceeds 6 million vehicles per year, under the Environmental Noise Regulations Meath County Council must prepare Strategic Noise Level Maps by the end of June. To quote him, he said that:

Pending the outcome of the aforementioned Strategic Noise Map, which may conclude that the village requires significant traffic management measures including a bypass, it is considered premature to include a bypass objective at this stage.” He then stated that the development plan can be changed later to accommodate the bypass.

It was agreed that it would make more sense to wait for this study to be done. As a result, rather than putting it to a vote, it was clear from the Manager’s advice that the most effective way to progress the bypass is to:

(a) Wait for the noise study and the preparation of the Strategic Noise Maps; and
(b) Armed with the outcome from these, seek to amend the local area plan to include the Julianstown Bypass.

I will continue to push for this bypass in order to enhance the quality of life for those living in Julianstown and throughout our community.

The next stage is that the amendments to the plan (those motions which were passed by the Councillors) will be put on public display from Monday for a period of four weeks. Any comments will then be written up into a report by the Manager, which will be debated in early March by the Councillors. Once we finish that the debate the Plan will be adopted by the Council and then becomes our key policy document for the next six years.

So, if you have any questions or want to comment on the proposed amendment then you have four weeks to do it. The plan will be on public display in Duleek, Ashbourne and Dunshaughlin One Stop Shops and most of the libraries around the county.


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