Last week we had a good look at the work –in-progress with regard to the Green Route currently being rolled out along the Dunmore Road, from Maypark to the Mall, as the planners described it. There was a good response reflected by the interest expressed hereabouts in these developments and issues raised. Of course, all this is being done in the context of the most recent city development plan especially in light of its Neighbourhood Strategy vis a vis city centre planning. This relationship has become critical and has created concern especially with the emergence of adjacent developments outside the scope of city planning – ach sin sceal eile! So let’s look at what the most recent city plans did say in respect of its Neighbourhood and City Centre development strategies.

Neighbourhoods are good and so were at the core of the planning strategy as envisaged by the Waterford City Development Plan 2008/14 and therefore could well impact on street where you live, so to speak as time goes on but perhaps the Big ‘R’ has put a stop to the pace of new developments. Of course, the prospects of the city centre are interrelated with, indeed, interdependent (symbiotic some would put it!) on the Neighbourhood Strategy it is worth reviewing what the Plan envisaged for both. According to the Planners an essential element of the sustainable development strategy outlined in the Plan is the development of the compact city, which is characterised by the consolidation of the existing, and the establishment of new neighbourhoods. These to be developed within a zoning strategy which is designed to ensure that adequate, suitably located and serviced land is available to cater for the orderly development of the City having regard to the following:

• The need to reduce urban sprawl

• The need to reduce reliance on private transport

• The maintenance of a clear line between the built-up urban area and the rural area

• The promotion of higher residential densities in the City

• The promotion of a balanced development between different areas of the City.

• The promotion of the neighbourhood concept.

• The maintenance of a vibrant and vital city centre.

Therefore within the context of those policy objectives the development strategy as proposed is designed to reinforce the City Centre as a place for work, shopping, services and living. The City Centre will be supported by a series of neighbourhoods focused on neighbourhood centres- sin An Plean, pe sceal e!

Urban Links

Each Neighbourhood Centre should be linked to the surrounding neighbourhood areas by a system of cycleways, footpaths and a hierarchical and coherent road network (now that would be heaven but dream on! And where are the cycle paths on the brand new Williamstown Road?). The Neighbourhood Centres should be linked to the City Centre, and to other neighbourhood centres, by improved and developing transport. There is a need to ensure that the various qualities of the developed neighbourhood areas are protected and improved and that the neighbourhood/district centres serving these areas are reinforced and strengthened. It is an objective to plan and provide for additional community services, public amenities and facilities where there are existing deficiencies. (I dare say it’s an absolute IMPERATIVE rather than that wishy-washy piously platitudinous sounding –it is ‘an objective’!)

The principle of sustainable development envisages an integration of activities and uses. In this context it is proposed that zones of enterprise and employment be established close to, or in, the new neighbourhoods. This will reduce travel times and use of private transport, thereby reducing traffic congestion.

(Again another planning Nirvana that one – the linkage of places of residence and employment – what centres of employment, I hear some cry!)

The Neighbourhood Structure therefore consists of:

• The North West Suburbs – Carrickpherish and Gracedieu.

• Ballybeg/Kilbarry.

• Ballytruckle/Kilcohan.

• Grange Upper/Farronshoneen/Ballinakill.

• Knockboy/Blenheim.

• Larchville/Lisduggan/Lismore.

Fore-sight or Dejavu?

Well, we need planning and structures in building for the future and all the foregoing are fine and noble words and aspirations in order to build that! The Recession has changed the context no doubt, but no harm in being positive as long as we are being realistic. But my question is how far into that future must we wait for essential community facilities in every one of the above designated neighbourhood areas? Nobody denies that great work has been done in some areas – yes we did finally get our Outer Ring Road and the forty year wait for the Second Coming, I mean Crossing is now only a few weeks away – already named the Cat Flap, by the way!! But, yes of course there’s a ‘But’ coming, all the above commentary on the Neighbourhood Strategy was mostly already contained in the 2002 Draft/Development Plan and though some things have been achieved many others are presented now again for the 2008/14 Plan as new and fresh objectives. Oh yes, there has/had been no shortage of planning out in this neck of the woods, for many hundred of more houses, especially on Knockboy and the Williamstown Road but where, o where are the facilities to cater for the many thousands who live here? Indeed, I have previously seen the glossy plans and maps and talk of idylls on village greens and hilltop park (An Cnoc Bui) and vistas aplenty. I see no community centre, tennis courts, pitch&putt facilities, youth clubs. Well we did get the Six Acre (or is that the 2 and a half-ish Acre?) Park with its few swings and a slide!! Planning trends today have tended towards higher density housing. So in an era of quickly disappearing private green spaces ie gardens, greater is the need for lots of public green/amenity areas. In the Play Policy document published a little while back no facilities or site even had been identified for the Knockboy area. A spurt of ‘stimulus spending’ will help boost the economy. Hopefully, we will not see the same inspirational language in the Plan of 20015. Perhaps we will get lots of photographs of the wonderful facilities that were eventually built including the already legendary Riverside Walk!

Down Town

Well that’s neighbourhoods for ya, but the ‘Town’ is well and truly down and which doesn’t come as news to anyone who walks about the place and so needs acute intensive care. The amount of closed premises is staggering with some in a terrible state of dereliction. This runs counter productive to the wonderful work done around the ‘old city’ over the past decade or so. One of these rejuvenated projects ie Cathderal Square and environs has been marred by dereliction for some considerable time now. Sadly this site for sore eyes is directly adjacent to the once home of Waterford’s most celebrated architect, John Roberts – some tourist attraction that! Ah but they were offered free cups of coffee- so that’s okay then. The opening next week of the New Bridge presents a new opportunity to create that vibrant and vital city the Plan alluded to above, hope springs eternal.

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan