Kildare - Current Trends and Development
This section describes the main trends and developments experienced in Kildare over the past number of years. The information provided here is a summary of the Kildare County Profile.
The profile draws on the most up-to-date statistics and information available. Unfortunately the most recent population statistics available are the Census 1996, which means that best estimates and alternative statistics have to be used. The profile will be updated when the results of the forthcoming Census 2002 become available.
Kildare and Dublin
County Kildare, once forming part of the historical buffer between Dublin and the Pale and the rest of Ireland, today forms the western most part of the Greater Dublin Area and remains the gateway to Dublin for most of the state.
The county’s location means it is well placed to gain from the benefits of its closeness to Dublin and also to cater for population and growth over-spill from the city. Over the past decade Kildare has both gained and suffered because of this.
Growth and Development in Kildare
Kildare has been the fastest growing county in Ireland since the early 1990s. This has placed very considerable pressures on the physical and social infrastructure and also on the natural and built environment of the county. Between 1991 and 1996 the total population of the county grew by 10.1%, compared to an increase of only 2.8% for the state.
The main causes of this increase in population are:
- The influx of commuters
- Job opportunities afforded by the location of new high-tech industries in the county
- Overall population growth in Greater Dublin Area
- Improvement in communications and transport systems enabling easier commuting
- Immigration of non-Irish nationals and returning Irish emigrants
The majority of this growth and the consequent expansion in housing and other physical infrastructure, has been concentrated in the northeast of the county, particularly around Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip. This population growth has begun to spread to more westerly and southerly parts of the county. This is because the increased cost of housing close to Dublin means that people must move further away from the city in order to access affordable housing.
Population projections estimate that the population of the county in 2000 was 159,824, and will have increased from 134,992 in 1996 to more than 203,000 by 2011, an increase of 50% over 15 years. This estimate has major implications for the physical and social planning in the county, for the delivery of public services and also for building a sense of identity and community among new and long-established residents. Resourcing of all public sector infrastructure is a key requirement to enable integrated development to occur to cater for the range of requirements of the future population.
National & Regional Developments
A number of wider developments have had a significant influence on the development of Kildare since the late 1990’s. For the purposes of the National Development Plan 2000-2006, Kildare is part of the Southern & Eastern Region and no longer qualifies for the maximum amount of EU Structural funding.
The Strategic Planning Guidelines, produced in 1999, provide a framework for infrastructural development in the Greater Dublin Area. These Guidelines, together with the National Spatial Strategy due to be produced in 2002, will provide a model and outline for future spatial planning in the region.
The NSS looks at the entire country and the various population and other pressures being experienced. It will set out a policy to allow balanced development to occur within and around specific ‘gateway’ towns and hinterland areas. These developments and their implications should be considered as the way forward in future spatial planning within the county.
Kildare's Natural Environment
The county’s rich and diverse natural environment provides a number of unique features for the people of the county to both enjoy and protect. Many of these environmental features are closely identified with the county, in particular, the famous ‘Curragh of Kildare’ and the county’s boglands. The natural environment of the county has come under increasing pressures from population growth and development. At the same time awareness of the need to protect the environment has also increased. Within the county there are over 20 proposed National Heritage Areas and four candidate Special Areas of Conservation designed to protect Kildare’s diverse natural resources.
The protection of the environment, while at the same time meeting the needs of economic and social growth and the needs of future generations, will be key issues in the future development of the county.
Because of its location, some 80% of the state is connected to Dublin by roads which pass through Kildare, resulting in the county having one of the highest proportions of national roads infrastructure in the country. The increase in the number of people, from Kildare and further afield, commuting to and from Dublin and other locations, has meant that the volume of traffic on the roads in the county is increasing at a rate of up to 13% per year. This is a much greater increase compared to considerably lower growth and pressure on roads in other counties in the Mid East region. Increased commuting has also placed demands on rail and bus transport. Iarnrod Eireann intend to provide for a four-tracking of the rail line to Celbridge plus other improvements to rail in the county to cater for growing demand and the number of scheduled bus routes is increasing.
This growing volume of users has implications for the quality of the transport
infrastructure. It points to the need for increased use and development of public transport in Kildare.
Environmental Management Infrastructure
Increased levels of domestic, commercial and industrial waste are placing substantial pressures on the waste management infrastructure in the county. The Waste Management Plan for County Kildare 2000-2005 sets out the strategy for the effective environmenta management in the county. An estimated 52,774 tonnes of domestic waste alone were generated in 2001. This figure is expected to grow to over 73,000 tonnes in 2011, an increase of 40% over 10 years. Increased recycling, reduction of waste and reuse of materials is crucial if the environment of the county is to be protected in the future.
Pressure is also increasing on the water, sewage and power supply systems in the county. Kildare Local Authorities are responsible for ensuring that the county has adequate water supplies and sewage disposal and continually monitor and upgrade these services. Increased provision of natural gas and peat-fired electricity are planned for the county from extended supply systems.
Telecommunications infrastructure in the county is also increasing with the roll-out of broadband and fibre-optic cables by the main telecom providers in the country. A full understanding of the need to respond to the provision of these and other key infrastructural elements will ensure that the county is well served in terms of physical infrastructure over the coming years.
Housing in Kildare
Housing supply in the Greater Dublin Area and the provision of affordable housing have become major issues in the region over the past number of years. Within the county, the greatest demand for housing at present is concentrated in Naas, Newbridge and Kildare Town. The County Housing Strategy 2001-2006 aims to ensure that adequate housing is provided for people living in the county. While this Strategy will ensure adequate housing, house prices will continue to be determined by demand in the market.
In the future, it is essential that social infrastructure and services are provided in tandem with housing if learning from previous decades is to be acted on and the quality of life of residents is to be protected and improved.
The Economy of Kildare
Economic indicators for the county show that Kildare is one of the most affluent counties in the country with per capita disposable incomes second only to Dublin in 1997. Between 1991 and 1996 the total number of persons at work who were living in the county increased by 26%, compared with an increase of 10% nationally. The highest gains in employment occurred in Clane, Maynooth and Celbridge.
The past decade has also seen a number of other changes in the economy of the county. The national decline in agriculture has also been experienced in Kildare pointing to the need for off-farm enterprises and part-time employment opportunities for farmers. At the same time, new industries have moved into Kildare, most notably high-tech multinational and national companies. Almost 60% of total employment in Kildare is in companies that are part of the technologically advanced sectors, compared to 45% nationally. The services sector has also continued to grow and is now the most rapidly growing sector of the economy in Kildare.
In order to sustain economic growth and capitalise on the new opportunities for employment that these changes in the economy offer, career guidance, the skills and retraining of the workforce and the infrastructure of the county need to be developed to meet the needs of business in the future.