CONCERNS about road safety and a lack of amenities are overshadowing the allocation of the first homes in the new Rickardstown development in Newbridge. A total of 68 twobed apartments in the development, which comprises a mixture of private, social and affordable housing, will be occupied before Christmas. The Rickardstown project is one of the largest ever undertaken in the county, with a total of 600 homes planned.
The new occupants of the apartments will not, however, have easy access to shops or other amenities as the development does not as yet have any commercial element attached. A planning application for shops and further housing, to be located in the Rickardstown area, directly facing the en-trance to the Sarsfields clubhouse and grounds, was turned down by the council just last week.
The application, by JT Nugent and Declan Gardener, c/o McCrossan, O'Rourke, Manning Architects, with an address at Harcourt Road, Dublin, was for a mixed commercial and housing development. It was turned down by the council on the basis that it was premature, pending the construction and commissioning of a proposed ‘foul sewer link' from the site to the Osberstown waste water treatment plant, and the construction of the Newbridge East sewerage link.
A second reason cited was the fact that under the Newbridge local area plan, development in the area was contingent on the provision of a five-acre site for community use. The council's refusal notes: "The applicant has failed to demonstrate that the proposal to locate same on public lands is consistent with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. In this case, the application is considered premature, pending agreement on same." The council's final reason for refusing the application related to the fact that a proposed access road, with associated carparking and landscaping, would be on land currently zoned agricultural.
Local councillor Pat Black commented that, had the planning application been accepted, there would have been what he termed "consid-erable community gain," including sports facilities. "I would be extremely concerned about the lack of infrastructure in the area generally," he said, adding that the nearest shop to the apartments that are about to be occupied will be at Mount Carmel, a considerable distance down the road.
"The council has cited the inadequacy of the current sewerage scheme as a reason for refusing this latest application for the area in question and it is true that sewerage facilities are a major issue," he said. "But an even greater concern relates to the traffic along that roadway and the capacity of Sex's Bridge to take the volume of traffic, which is going to increase considerably with all of the new residents." Cllr Black stated that while there was a desperate need to provide housing in the area, he was dissatisfied in respect of the attention to infrastructure. "The route across Sex's Bridge is the main road into the town of Newbridge and there is considerable concern about the effects of increased use," he said.
The Rickardstown scheme has already incorporated a small playground area and a hall that can be used for community purposes, but it is acknowledged that a far greater level of amenities will be required before all 600 new homes are actually completed and occupied. Rickardstown is also the site for the new primary school, Scoil na Naomh Uilig, to eventually replace the current temporary facilities located in the grounds of St Conleth's VEC school in the town centre.
It is understood that the design for the new school has been completed and a planning application is expected to be submitted prior to the end of the year. Contruction would need to get underway quickly, however, given the pressure on schools in the area.
The temporary Scoil na Naomh Uilig buildings are already accommodating up to 100 children, although it was initially estimated that only around 40 youngsters would require places in the current academic year. Parish priest Fr Joe McDermott, the members of the school board, staff and parents are all demanding that the project be given priority, with work commencing as early as possible in the New Year.
Meanwhile, it had been hoped that Kildare County Council would be in a position to complete agreements and hand out the keys to a greater number of houses at Rickardstown (including three- and four-bed family homes) before the end of the year, but this has not proved possible. Those on the county council's waiting list, who are destined to be housed in the new homes, are hoping that they will now be allocated in early 2008.