Monday, March 05, 2007

 

Many hands make Lights work!

Eventually the public lighting situation has been sorted out in Race Hill estate in Ashbourne. It’s been a slow process. For the last three months we’ve been in almost daily contact with the residents and the ESB to get things moving. The last light was finally switched on during the week.

Now we have to continue the pressure on the ESB to complete the public lighting on the other estates in East Meath that are still waiting for lighting.

Although the lights are on, there are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be addressed in relation to Race Hill. The final surfacing works need to go down and the temporary treatment plant (which I am told should have been removed months ago) needs to be taken away. I will continue to press for this to be done.

Race Hill Plant
This plant needs to be taken away before the green area can be finished

Next door at Race Hill Lodge work is also needed. There are NO public lights and I’ve been told that there are issues in relation to the quality of the earthworks put into the open space. Although the builder seems to have disappeared from the estate, he appears to be still using it as a place to park his equipment.

Digger for Sale
Anyone want to buy an abandoned digger?

I’ll be following this up with the Council over the next few weeks.

I’m a member of Meath VEC and we held a meeting in the Bettystown Court Hotel on Thursday night to announce that the new 1,000 pupil secondary school would open on a temporary basis if there are sufficient numbers. Peter Kierans, the CEO of Meath VEC, gave a fine speech on the merits of the school and how it would work, both in the first instance as a temporary school and then how after about 3 years it would move into the permanent building. Peter was joined by the principals of VEC schools in Ratoath, Nobber, Dunboyne and Dunshaughlin.

I must say it was an impressive presentation that they all put together. To get a temporary school off the ground they need at least 50 students (this allows them to have a critical mass in terms of classes offered and hours for teachers). As there were over 150 parents present I’d be hopeful that enough sign up to make a temporary school a reality. Anyone who wants to enrol their child can call my advice centre on 041 988 6307 or call www.meathvec.ie on 046 902 1447.

Friday saw the final meeting on Meath’s new County Development Plan. It had been out for comment from members of the public for the previous six weeks. In all a total of 70 comments were made. Guess what, the vast majority were from developers, who were complaining about the proposed caps on the number of houses in Meath over the next 6 years.

The Planners had gone away since the last meeting and reviewed the proposed “caps”. The caps are their way of trying to limit the amount of residential land developed over the 6 year life of the plan. There’s sufficient land zoned in Meath to build 300,000 houses, whilst regional Planning Guidelines say that a figure of around about 200,000 is more acceptable. Instead of de-zoning land the Planners decided to introduce caps.

They proposed a few changes to the caps since the last meeting. The main one in East Meath was the proposal to increase the cap in the Bettystown / Laytown / Mornington area. This was in recognition of the fact that they had already approved more housing than the cap allowed for. As result of that, the delivery of the primary school site, the secondary school site and the playing fields in Laytown / Bettystown could be jeopardised. So, they proposed to increase the cap here. This brought the total number of houses to 207,000 (existing and new).

One key vote that was taken was to increase the cap from the 207,000 population figures suggested by the planners to 210,000 suggested by one of the Councillors. The Councillors who voted in favour of this wanted the land reserved for Strategic Areas in the County. I asked the planner for clairification of where this would be and my understanding is that it will be for strategic centres such as Navan and Ashbourne.

The planners were against this proposal. So was I. I can’t see the need for an increase. I felt that the arguments for it were unclear and unreasoned. It was put to a vote and my side lost 14 – 6.

We then came to the final vote of the evening, which was whether or not to adopt the plan. On an overall basis I was happy to do this. There are certainly things in the plan I don’t like, but I am happy that my proposal to protect Open Spaces is adopted, that my proposals on walking routes, cycling routes, and environmental policies are now part of the Plan. I also welcome the fact that Meath is introducing a more managed programmed of housing land releases, so that existing communities get the social facilities they need before being swamped with more housing.

We adopted the County Development Plan at 9pm, 7 hours after the start of the meeting.

It was another lesson in the ways of life of a politician. I had arranged dinner with an old friend in Dublin for 8:30pm. I called her in the morning to warn her that I might be late. By 4pm I thought that we would be finished in time. By six I called her again to say that things were still looking good. By seven pm things had changed. I called her to cancel. Not a nice thing to do so late in the day. I called her again at 9pm, just to say that I could go up for a later dinner, but at that stage she was eating a take-away Chinese. So, we didn’t get to meet.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens a lot and as one of my Councillor Colleagues reminded me when I mentioned my dinner engagement “You must always put the interests of the public before your personal life.” You’d never guess the name of the Councillor who came up with that line!


A video taken on Dollymount Strand in relation to Beach Bollards

On Saturday evening I attended the Irish Blog awards in Dublin. I was up for an award but lost out to www.irishelection.com. Afterwards I congratulated Cian from the site. I’ve met him before at the “Blogging the Election” Conference and I have to say that they really deserved the win for the work they have put into their site over the last while.

I was in winning company, though. REDMUM, who actually introduced me to blogging (she walked me through the wonderful world of www.blogger.com , www.flickr.com, youtube.com and how to edit videos) won an award for her blog.

Redmum with award
Redmum with her award.

All in all, a great night was had!

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