During the Celtic Tiger period of high levels of economic growth in Ireland, the city experienced the ‘growing pains’ of rapid population increase and the adaptation of the physical environment to requirements expected of larger urban areas. When the economic crisis hit in 2008 a number of developments were stalled and left uncompleted. This was a familiar picture in many large towns in Ireland.
According to Michael Kenny, senior planner of Kildare County Council, Naas did not suffer the same level of over-development mainly because by 2007 it had infrastructure capacity issues with the need for new sewerage works. This problem halted new development at an opportune time.
Recently the sewerage works have been completed thereby increasing the infrastructure carrying capacity and the quantum for new development. Senior officials anticipate that a new cycle of residential development will commence.
The long period of inactivity in new residential development has contributed to a housing supply shortage. The impact is especially on the demand for affordable housing. There is according to officials only 350 social housing units and a very limited number of private rental units available in the Naas area. There is however an opportunity to identify plots of land close to the city centre for new residential development. It will require a process of citizen engagement and discussions on the merits and the value of such developments, not only to address the housing needs, but also for the sustainability of the city centre itself.
The possibility for increasing density in the centre is viewed positively by Suzanne Doyle, Chairperson of the Council’s Economic Development Strategic Policy Committee. She sees a correlation between the sustainability of businesses in the centre and the growth of the population in the centre. She also views a lack of new development as an ominous sign for existing retail and expects that under such circumstances there will probably be a downsizing and closure of more retail in the centre. Her concern however is that new development cannot just be ‘more of the same’. She wants the city to use the opportunity to encourage creative design and integrated services and uses with new developments. This she hopes will be facilitated with an improved planning policy framework when the new Kildare County Development Plan 2017 - 2023 is adopted.
Naas is located 30km from Dublin. It is on the periphery of the Dublin metropolitan area. According to North Kildare Chamber of Commerce this strategic location affords Naas with great opportunities to ‘tap’ into Dublin as the biggest market in Ireland as well as getting access to international markets via the connectivity provided by Dublin International Airport and Dublin Port.
The Chamber advocates that Naas will use Dublin as a locator in its marketing of the city as an attraction for investment, both for new residents and new businesses considering their relocation or expansion options. It believes that Naas can be positioned as a family friendly location for young families as well as a great location for senior business executives with its premium leisure facilities.
Moreover, the growth of the Dublin metropolitan area followed a pattern of urban sprawl particularly along the corridors of improved roads such as the motorways close to Naas. During the economic boom before 2008 there was a large expansion of new retail centres outside and on the edge of Naas and close to the M7 motorway. This retail development included the Kildare Village Designer Outlet Complex, the first of its kind in Ireland. More retail centres developed off the nearby M50 motorway, a ring road circumventing Dublin, all within a 30-minute drive from the Naas city centre.
The impact has been that Naas city centre, which is known for its fashionable shops linked to the horse racing industry, lost its allure as a shopping destination. The North Kildare Chamber of Commerce however believes that this challenge to the city centre presents a new opportunity for the city to differentiate its retail offer from the new ‘cloned’ standard fare offered by all the above mentioned shopping centres and malls. The Chamber’s marketing strategy is to work with the local authority to enhance the special heritage townscape of the Main Street and to support and promote independent businesses that will create a synergy for a quality leisure and cultural experience for customers of the city centre shops.
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