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Kevin Myers column about Naas town planning

  • 12-01-2011 3:32pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 ✭✭✭ Amtmann


    I thought this was interesting:
    The closure of Superquinn supermarket in Naas is a suitably grim start to the year. As it happens, the underlying reasons for the closure are apparently commercial: the calamity that has befallen the town generally raises far more worrying questions about local government in Ireland.

    I know Naas well. It has undergone a unique disaster, because much of the ruin that has been visited on it was not so much economic, as political. The town has a traditional Irish main street of Georgian origin.

    All traffic heading for the south-west used to pass through it, but even when it was by-passed, Naas remained prosperous -- until a series of bizarre planning decisions by Kildare County Council changed it forever.

    Firstly, permission was given to build not just one, but TWO retail parks, one on either side of the town, each anchored by a huge DIY store: Atlantic Homecare in one and Woodies the other. This was naturally damaging to the DIY businesses in Naas. One, Mattimoes, which had been in business for a over century, closed. The other, Gouldings, has kept its business by offering a personal and highly specialised service that the large chains cannot match. But it is hard, hard going.

    Next, the council planners gave permission for yet a third retail park just outside the town with the largest supermarket in Ireland. In one day, it drew 5,500 customers and achieved sales of nearly €3m.

    Meanwhile, Naas high street has been hit by a chainsaw massacre, as shop after shop has folded beneath the unsustainable pressures created by insane planning.

    Yet the icing on the still unbaked cake was that the planning authorities also gave permission for a new shopping centre in the heart of Naas, as if this part of Kildare were Manhattan, able to sustain an almost indefinite amount of retail activity. Needless to say, work on the town centre shopping mall has now halted, as shoppers are drawn to the three retail parks a short car ride away.

    However, it is not just a question of despair in Naas. The largest office block in the town is a glittering palace of architectural modernity, with lakes, fountains and sloping glass walls. No, it is not the Irish home of Microsoft, or Google, or Intel: it is the home of Kildare County Council, which is to a large extent sustained by the rates generated from the retail parks outside the town.

    It's not just Kildare which has set some terrifying examples of such ludicrous planning. Eight miles from Naas, the west Wicklow town of Blessington is struggling to survive the imposition of a hideous concrete 'town centre' alongside the existing Georgian streetscape. Yet the new 'town centre' -- what a truly fatuous title -- is just about dead, save for its anchor clients, Dunnes Stores. Virtually all the other units are empty. And this folly is not solely a victim of the economic collapse: Blessington could never have sustained the number of retail outlets for which Wicklow planners gave permission. Even for the 'town centre' to have prospered in the tiger years would have required rival shops on the old main street to have folded.

    Another local government planning folly appeared before the High Court last month. Mr Justice Peter Charleton heard how Galway County Council gave planning permission for the construction of a housing estate outside Kinvara on a blind bend in a road on which the speed limit was 100kmh. Moreover, the planning permission extended the town "in an unplanned manner", through an important tourist area. It was difficult to see why the court should be required to authorise such a public danger, the judge declared -- a public danger which had been initially authorised by Galway County Council.

    You will all know of other ludicrous and unsustainable planning decisions -- the many new 'town centres', which are nothing of the kind, or entire housing estates on flood plains, as famously in Sallins, or villages raped by mass suburbanisation. This idiocy is not just of recent vintage: 30 years ago, north county Dublin had thousands of thatched cottages, making the region a magnet for tourists. Planners oversaw the destruction of the lot.

    So, can local decision-making in Ireland ever really be trusted, regardless of whether we live in tiger-land, or just the doldrums, or, as at the moment, having stepped off a cliff? A vast infrastructure of local government, now occupying the most extravagant buildings in our towns, appears to be incapable of making consistently rational planning decisions. Self-interest and stupidity seem to be at least as influential as applied intelligence and formal policy.

    Yet what happens whenever planning-making is left to central government?

    The go-ahead to build a Tallaght (without any shops, naturally) was a government decision in 1968. Today, a comparable process sees motorways without service stations, and Metro North, and Dublin Airport's empty €1.2bn terminal.

    So, does this failure result merely from a malfunctioning political system? In which case, it can be fixed.

    But if it is a true reflection on the national psyche, beyond all reform or improvement then we are, as Aristotle put it in his famous essay, 'Reflections on the Inner-Soul, and Governance of a Democratic City-State', "well and truly ."

    - Kevin Myers

    Irish Independent
    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-today-selfinterest-and-stupidity-seem-to-be-as-influential-as-applied-intelligence-and-policy-2490960.html


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Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,032 DWCommuter


    What he says about Naas is true. I've also been alluding to it on the Kildare forum.


  • Registered Users Posts: 19,078 ✭✭✭✭ Ash.J.Williams


    He's bang on about Blessington too, it's as if there was no effort to preserve the history of the village at all, just a big celtic tiger concrete mess.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 ✭✭✭ Amtmann


    Well, the numpties of Carrick-on-Suir are still harping on about housing development:
    Council called on to sell sites for private housing


    Published Date: 05 January 2011
    By Aileen Hahesy


    A proposal to sell a Carrick-on-Suir Town Council housing landbank as individual sites for private houses to boost the local building industry has been put to the local authority.

    Fianna Fail Cllr Kieran Bourke tabled a motion at the Council's latest meeting calling for its lands on the Coonamuck Road, to be turned into detached sites for private housing. There is planning permission on the landbank for a mix of 70 social, affordable and voluntary houses and there is provision in the Coolnamuck Masterplan for 12 private sites at this location.

    Cllr Bourke saidthe Council should put in the services infrastructure and sell off the land as site to people interested in building their own homes.
    The sale of sites for private housing by the Council was done successfully in the 1970s at Woodland Heights in Carrickbeg and he believed it would provide employment to people in the building industry in the town and also give a boost the town's two builders' providers stores. He pointed to the fact that it was now policy that local authorities didn't build large scale estates.

    Several members of the Council supported the proposal. Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan (FF) said it was an excellent idea while Cllr Landy (Lab) said the setting up of housing co-operatives was was done with the Lissadell and Clairin estates should be considered. These estates were built during a time that was not too different to now, he pointed out.

    Cllr Pierce O'Loughlin said the proposal certainly should be seriously thought about and added that the Council would have to look at the whole housing situation in Carrick-on-Suir because of the unfinished housing estates, which were a "blot on the landscape".

    Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Walsh said Cllr Bourke's motion was a good idea in the short term to stimulate the building industry in the town as very few council homes were going to be built and he felt Cllr Landy's proposal about establishing a housing co-op should be followed up.

    Town Clerk Michael O'Brien said it could not reach a decision on the matter at the meeting.

    The Council would have to sit down and do a thorough review of potential uses of its lands at Coolnamuck in view of current housing policy prioritising the Rental Accommodation Scheme and long term leasing schemes.
    While the Council provided in the Coolnamuck Master Plan for 12 private sites at the Coolnamuck Road landbank, he said the development of this land in the short to medium term was unlikely because of the current housing policy.
    He pointed out to councillors that there were many factors for the local authority to take into account in considering Cllr Bourke's proposal and while local authority housing policy had changed dramatically in the past two years, this was not to say there wouldn't be another dramatic shift in another two years.

    The only thing stopping the Council building houses now was the availability of capital funding, he said.

    Cllr Sylvia Sheehan is the same person who said the proposed route for the N24 bypass should not be protected, in case locals want to sell sites for one-offs.

    Cashel also has a new shopping mall, anchored by Tesco, with all but two of the other units empty. Clonmel has the massive Poppyfields complex on one side of the town, plus a 24-hr Tesco at the other. The town centre appears to be doing well though.

    On the other hand, you have some local authorities building new streets in city centres, such as the new development off Patrick Street in Cork. However, this street is basically just an open-air mall. A street should have functions apart from retail; one should be able to sit down and enjoy a coffee or go to a cafe or restaurant; but this new street in Cork city centre is just a shopping street, and when the shops close, no one has any reason to be on it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 279 ✭✭ coolperson05


    First time I've ever agreed with him on anything! Planning is a shambles.
    In Waterford alone theres a whole retail park on the outer ring road and a FULLY COMPLETELY shopping centre in Ferrybank, completely empty since 2008 that hasn't opened.
    Like Naas having Irelands largest Tesco? Naas? Retail parks belong outside the motorways of Dublin and Cork and that's about it. There's town and city centres for a reason.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,376 ✭✭✭ ei.sdraob


    Yeh I think the "planning" madness is being noticed alot father away than Ireland too, heres a piece from NY Times on Kinvara


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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,275 ✭✭✭ Pete_Cavan


    For once Myers has hit the nail right on the head, not only that we have serious problems with our planning system, anyone could tell you that. I think he is 100% right when he says it is a reflection of our national psyche and for this reason I dont see anything changing any time soon, no matter how many more terrible decisions are made.

    I also think the article on Carrick-on-Suir highlights another issue with our planning system. It says housing policy in Carrick-on-Suir has "changed dramatically in the past two years, this was not to say there wouldn't be another dramatic shift in another two years". Our planning policies are always reactions to a problem and never anticipate future problems. We seem to solve one problem when it is too late and end up creating another problem. Planning policies should dictate where and when development happens and this should be determined by a national framework. If the last 20 years has taught us anything it should be that these issues should not be left to County Councillors with vested interests and their developer buddies.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,508 ✭✭✭ muletide


    Naas town centre is already fairly desolate it will be a miserable empty place once SQ go. I try and always do a bit of shopping in the small shops in there but even on Xmas eve there was no atmosphere there. The town has been ruined and what was once seen as a desirable place to live will become a ghost town with the related decrease in house values and the movement of many Dubliners back to the more attractive suburbs of the capital.

    RIP Naas town centre- well done town planners.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,085 ✭✭✭ veryangryman


    Am i the only one who likes these retail parks?

    Free Parking
    Easy to get in/out of
    Less chance of running into beggars/people with clipboards

    Take Naas - what a pain in the ass of a place to get in or out of. Nowhere in town to park free and a pretty poor selection of shops.

    The above is purely from a shoppers point of view - i take the point about them destroying the heart of the town. Personally i do like being able to get the essentials at a reasonable price without the pain of sitting behind grannies in traffic


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,581 ✭✭✭ jd


    muletide wrote: »

    RIP Naas town centre- well done town planners.

    Would it not actually be the councillors' fault? They zone land as residential, retail etc for development. If a proposed retail development is in land zoned for retail development, the planners would find it difficult to refuse.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,974 ✭✭✭ Chris_5339762


    The go-ahead to build a Tallaght (without any shops, naturally) was a government decision in 1968. Today, a comparable process sees motorways without service stations, and Metro North, and Dublin Airport's empty €1.2bn terminal.

    He had to get this in didnt he :D


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  • Registered Users Posts: 570 Stroke Politics


    Same thing happening in Navan too, with two large out-of-town retail parks anchored by large DIY/hardware/garden centre retailers, and permission granted for a third! Add to that p.p. given for a "town centre" less than a kilometre from the current one, and another developer attempting to devellop a town centre 2 km away to the north of the town.

    In the past 12 months, 7 premises on the main street in the town have closed up, including a chipper and a bank. The traditional main street is dying, town planners could not care about the streets that people shopped in for centuries, it's the same few people who dictate what is built and where in most of these towns. In a few years, we'll have the same situation as that in the US, the donut effect of an empty centre, and retail space that can only be reached by car. It's a shame.....


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,871 ✭✭✭✭ JupiterKid


    Ireland has been badly damaged by appallingly bad planning decisions. Entire town centres that have been eviscerated by huge retail parks and out of town centres that themselves now lie empty or half-occupied.

    Ghost estates littering the edges of towns, tiny villages transformed into suburbs overnight.

    One-off housing turning the countryside into exurbs.

    It's a litany of depressing failures. Ireland is a prime example of how not to go about strategic and urban planning.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,581 ✭✭✭ jd


    The traditional main street is dying, town planners could not care about the streets that people shopped in for centuries,.

    The primary responsibility lies with the COUNCILLORS, they have the power to zone land for (retail) development etc.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 624 Aidan1


    but this new street in Cork city centre is just a shopping street, and when the shops close, no one has any reason to be on it.

    Not quite. It also opens up access to the plaza in front of the Opera House, and the river, from Patrick Street. Cork City (and County) planners have long been amongst the very best in terms of long term planning, but certain national political decisions (stand up, Mr Dick Roche) have fundamentally undermined their intent.

    Case in point. The 1996 County Development Plan set out a number of 'ring towns', key settlements that were to be targeted for future growth. To be clear, these were villages, not towns like Midleton or Carrigaline or Cobh that are all (now) over 10,000 people in size. But the Minister for the Environment relaxed the rules on one off rural housing (much to the delight of Councillors), effectively negating any such carefully thought out and designed planning system. The rest, as they say, is history. And will be forever with us.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,623 ✭✭✭ Bards


    First time I've ever agreed with him on anything! Planning is a shambles.
    In Waterford alone theres a whole retail park on the outer ring road and a FULLY COMPLETELY shopping centre in Ferrybank, completely empty since 2008 that hasn't opened.
    Like Naas having Irelands largest Tesco? Naas? Retail parks belong outside the motorways of Dublin and Cork and that's about it. There's town and city centres for a reason.

    In relation to Waterford. it is the neighbouring Councils who are at fault here. Ferrybank was granted permission by Kilkenny Co Co to grab the income from Rates as the development is just inside the Kilkenny County border albeit right inside the economic entity that is Waterford City.

    Same goes for the development on the Outer Ring Road it is inside Waterford County Council's boundary and built for the same purpose to grab rateable income at the expense of the City


  • Registered Users Posts: 288 ✭✭ n900guy


    Am i the only one who likes these retail parks?

    Free Parking
    Easy to get in/out of
    Less chance of running into beggars/people with clipboards

    Take Naas - what a pain in the ass of a place to get in or out of. Nowhere in town to park free and a pretty poor selection of shops.

    The above is purely from a shoppers point of view - i take the point about them destroying the heart of the town. Personally i do like being able to get the essentials at a reasonable price without the pain of sitting behind grannies in traffic

    You like them because you have no choice.

    The alternative could have been:

    1. No need for driving - bus or rail or bike lanes between these small towns
    2. Living within walking distance of the actual town centre
    3. Not having the donut effect on our few cities replicating of suburban America in a small country of 4 million people.

    But, our councillors went on junkets to Boston, not Innsbruck or Geneva. Every effect of large out of town shopping centres in the US will be seen in Ireland: dead towns, populated by few as we all live in isolated enclaves spending our lives in car-dependent commuter hell, safely removed from any chance of meeting neighbours or other locals or developing a community, or removing the idiots from government. If you spend your life growing up thinking Tesco and a Boots is the heart of the local community, and it takes 2-3hrs per day of commuting, you will take whatever you are given and will be too tired to ever get proper local councillors or TDs.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,205 Benny_Cake


    Apart from the fact that he mixed up B&Q and Atlantic Homecare, he's spot on. And it's the first time I've ever said that about Kevin Myers. However I did spot him shopping in the old Tesco's on the Blessington Road last weekend!


  • Registered Users Posts: 304 ✭✭ runway16


    Mr Myers was doing very well with that article until he spouted his usual nonsense about MN, T2 and the Motorways.

    T2 Didnt cost 1.2 billion - it cost half that. This number is trotted out by Ryanair, and is the total cost of investment at Dublin Airport including a new Runway which has now been deffered. Is someone trying to tell me that Dublin airport didnt need to expand??

    MN - well, we all know Kevin's myopic and completely ill-informed views on that.

    Motorway service areas - sadly, there isnt much demand. Even the current ones on the M1 dont open at night except for petrol and are very quiet even then. The short journey times make rest stops unnecessary except where one is using two of the motorways - eg Cork - Belfast (and even then, you do have options to stop on the N7 into Dublin).

    This is yet another Myers rant to have a pop at his old favourites - although I must admit he has points on the town planning aspect!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,032 DWCommuter


    runway16 wrote: »
    This is yet another Myers rant to have a pop at his old favourites - although I must admit he has points on the town planning aspect!

    Its a rant and a very valid one in relation to town planning. The old favourites are just thrown in for effect, but are certainly not the focus of the article.


  • Registered Users Posts: 304 ✭✭ runway16


    I wouldnt see it like that DW. I think they were very much the point of the article - he was building up nicely to a very succinct critique of planning generally in Ireland. He chose a nice topic that will resonate strongly with smaller town Ireland and convince them of the "folly" of these "Dublin" projects.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,032 DWCommuter


    runway16 wrote: »
    I wouldnt see it like that DW. I think they were very much the point of the article - he was building up nicely to a very succinct critique of planning generally in Ireland. He chose a nice topic that will resonate strongly with smaller town Ireland and convince them of the "folly" of these "Dublin" projects.

    Thats a pretty big angle to take on the article if you don't mind me saying so. But I'm not convinced Myers has the influence or readership to affect things such as MN or DU.. There is far too much fear and emphasis placed with the likes of Myers and McDonald in relation to certain topics. I have some time for McDonald as he tends to appreciate the disaster that is public transport in Ireland, but Ive no time for his hounding of projects and perfect world expectations.

    Myers piece on town planning is decent enough and I don't think we should let our paranoia expand to such a degree that we think his references to MN etc in the article will carry any weight. Just keep writing the letters to the indo when he spouts guff happy in the knowledge that he can have the publicity, while being corrected at the same time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,699 ✭✭✭ smokingman


    Surprised he didn't say anything about the "alledged" bribes to the council that resulted in the Kerdiffstown dump....wonder what the status of the cleanup there is these days given I can still smell the toxic fumes on the N7.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 Iwannahurl


    smokingman wrote: »
    Surprised he didn't say anything about the "alledged" bribes to the council that resulted in the Kerdiffstown dump....wonder what the status of the cleanup there is these days given I can still smell the toxic fumes on the N7.



    I haven't read Myers for years since he left the Irish Times after his last OTT rant there (was it about Travellers, an old favourite of his?).

    Good to see him put his talent to better use in excoriating "Planners".

    Much "planning" in this here Republic of Banana was done on the back of a brown envelope by people whose vision was little more than the view from inside a developer's Merc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 304 ✭✭ runway16


    DWCommuter wrote: »
    Thats a pretty big angle to take on the article if you don't mind me saying so. But I'm not convinced Myers has the influence or readership to affect things such as MN or DU.. There is far too much fear and emphasis placed with the likes of Myers and McDonald in relation to certain topics. I have some time for McDonald as he tends to appreciate the disaster that is public transport in Ireland, but Ive no time for his hounding of projects and perfect world expectations.

    Myers piece on town planning is decent enough and I don't think we should let our paranoia expand to such a degree that we think his references to MN etc in the article will carry any weight. Just keep writing the letters to the indo when he spouts guff happy in the knowledge that he can have the publicity, while being corrected at the same time.

    I dont mind you saying so at all, especially when said so politely!

    You are perhaps right that I am being a little paranoid on the issue - but sadly Myers does tend to ellicit that sort of response.

    You should have a read of today's work of literary genius - another "arent the Irish so bloody stupid" pieces....


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,278 ✭✭✭ dubhthach


    Limerick is another example. Instead of developing the towns in country Limerick the council did huge amount development in area around the Limerick city boundary. As a result they have a vested interest in not allowing Limerick city to expand it's boundary. Similiar sort of development occur in Dublin in the 19th century and Detroit in the present era which has had disastrous results.


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,223 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    Am i the only one who likes these retail parks?

    Free Parking
    Easy to get in/out of
    Less chance of running into beggars/people with clipboards

    Take Naas - what a pain in the ass of a place to get in or out of. Nowhere in town to park free and a pretty poor selection of shops.

    The above is purely from a shoppers point of view - i take the point about them destroying the heart of the town. Personally i do like being able to get the essentials at a reasonable price without the pain of sitting behind grannies in traffic
    Wouldn't it be much better if people could live within walking distance of local services and not dependent on a car to get some bread and milk?


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,085 ✭✭✭ veryangryman


    Victor wrote: »
    Wouldn't it be much better if people could live within walking distance of local services and not dependent on a car to get some bread and milk?

    They can have both! As they do in Naas. Who there NEEDS a car to get the basics?

    I get your point if town centre places close but seriously (everyone), quit the one-sidedness. Naas still has Tesco/Penneys in town. Can you give an example of a similar sized town without a supermarket and clothes shop within touching distance of main street.

    As a guy who despises red lights with a passion, i say long live the retail parks.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 108 ✭✭ eia340600


    Naas still has Tesco/Penneys in town. Can you give an example of a similar sized town without a supermarket and clothes shop within touching distance of main street.

    Is that not the point though???This terrible planning has gone on all over the country:
    housing estates in fields in Cavan;
    "Town Centres" (shopping centres) which provide generic globalised names, robbing real town centres of life;
    and huge businessl parks miles away from anywhere, as in Longford, forcing people to drive everywhere, when there's perfectly suited office space in town.


  • Registered Users Posts: 603 Irish Fire


    K.C.C. are a bloody joke current proposal to divert the traffic in Kildare Town through a housing estate and the also talks of turning the main roads into a one way system.......


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  • Registered Users Posts: 78,223 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    They can have both! As they do in Naas. Who there NEEDS a car to get the basics?
    On the Kilcullen Road, do the housing estates (and the houses beyond them) beyond the south ring road have shops to serve them? Doctor? Schools? And then the houses 5km out of town?

    Why is there large amounts of development beyond the motorway?
    As a guy who despises red lights with a passion, i say long live the retail parks.
    There wouldn't be so many red lights if there wasn't so much traffic. There wouldn't be so much traffic if people didn't have to drive.


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