Tuesday 12 February 2008

A town born without a plan plays catch-up

The population of Ratoath in Co Meath stood at 593 in 1991. By Census 2006, it had mushroomed to 7,249.

These new residents moved into houses on estates that spread out from the tiny village like an octopus's tentacles. There was no obvious plan, save for the one that ensured that a few people made a lot of money.

But now, after years of underdevelopment, Ratoath is finally catching up with the population boom -- although it is perhaps 12 years too late.

There are now enough schools (which were desperately needed -- Ratoath has the highest proportion of children under 14 in the country). A secondary school opened last year; there are three national schools, childcare facilities, sports clubs and a new community centre that includes a theatre.

But that wasn't the case for a long while and there is still one obvious problem with the town -- there can be up to three-mile tailbacks through the suffocated main street.

"Apart from people who use the road locally, there are people from Cavan, Navan, and Meath that use the town as a rat run between the N2 and N3," says local councillor and manager of Rataoth Community Centre, Nick Killian.

"There can be three-mile tailbacks some evenings."

A planned inner relief road, which has been ready for the past five years, has not yet opened due to protests from residents groups. The new M3 would also serve to take some cars from Ratoath Main Street, which is gridlocked even at midday.

The problem is exacerbated by a lack of proper connectivity to Dublin. There is no direct bus route and no train service yet.

For the residents who made the move into one of the many estates, they say they are now happy with the town's facilities, even if transport is still a big problem for them.

"It's nice and quiet," says Lanie Jedrusik. "We could do with a better bus service. The timetable isn't reliable. It can take an hour-and-a-half to get to Dublin, mostly because the bus goes through Ashbourne."

Others say they now have the life they sought when they first moved here.

"We have a better quality of life here," says Geraldine McGuinness, who moved from Finglas three-and-a-half years ago. "It's a lovely village, there are new restaurants now but the traffic is still a big problem.

"We could do with a playground for the smaller kids, too," she adds.

Case study

Irish Independent


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