By Eoin Ryan
The church of Ashbourne sold land next to Killegland Cemetery for 1 mil to Ashcroft Developments housing agency despite plans for a park on that land being established.
The land was first acquired from Ned Nulty who sold most his land in the early 1970’s. This land is now most of the Garden City area, but the green next to the cemetery has not been used until its recent sale. Currently there is only playground area for the entire area despite the demands for more greenspace and recreation.
Members of the community were not informed of this change despite demands for a park already being discussed among the community.
“When you think of Ashbourne there’s very little compared to the actual population of the town,” says Emlyn Cardiff, a local resident in Churchfield, Ashbourne.
Emlyn Cardiff is one of many parents hoping to get a park for their children, disappointed in the selling of land only a short walk away from his home in Churchfield.
The town has grown to 11,500 this year, from 9,000 in 2019, its proximity to Dublin and rush to keep up with surging housing demands leading to a rapid growth. Despite this growth in population, very little in terms of services has been built with the town centre and outer areas only given small improvements.
A study by KPMG Future Analytics revealed Ashbourne is deficient in greenspace such as parks and walkways by 33 Hectares (80 acres).
“They should’ve at least talked to us about it before they sold it.”
The grassland sold by the church is exactly 80 acres, a perfect size for the park that is deemed necessary for the area.
“They flipped it then in the last few weeks for over a million quid,” Alan Tobin says, an Ashbourne based councilor. “They never said anything to the community, never talked to the community about the park or what the community wanted. They should have at least talked to us about it before they sold it.”
An alternative site deemed ‘better’ was proposed by the church/developers, further from the housing estates and next to the motorway. This gives no consideration for accessibility among children or noise pollution from traffic.
Based between Churchfield and Garden City shopping centre, the next Killegland cemetery is 15 minutes away from all primary and secondary schools in Ashbourne and far enough from housing that noise will not be a major issue for residents. The alternative park area is not nearly as accessible to the community with the only reason for it being built would be to allow the construction of housing next to Killegland cemetery.
There has been a great lack of open areas away from roads and the issues that comes with being close to them as the town continues its rapid expansion.
“A lot of people have to find a way to exercise and there’s actually nowhere around here where you can go for a long walk without having to walk onto main roads and get choked by petrol and diesel fumes as you’re walking by or in traffic stopped,” says Emlyn Cardiff.
Ireland’s housing crisis requires this rush for residential areas, but it does not mean that other facilities should be neglected because of this. The needs of residents should not be treated as an afterthought which could be detrimental for adolescents growing up in an area with little to no areas for them to play in.
There is an alternative site proposed enough for 70 houses further down west and a larger site, though plans need to be put in place before an exact figure of housing is put in place. Replacing the park for residential would solely benefit the church and Ashcroft Developments as this plot would fulfill the need for recreation and housing at the same time.
To object these plans, it is 20 euro per objection with fundraisers and charity events planned to cover these expenses for any who wants to join in.
An Bord Pleanála, an independent judicial body, will ultimately decide if the land is sold to Ashcroft or plans for the park will go ahead. A judicial Review might be necessary, though this is an expensive alternative which will only be used if An Bord Pleanála sides with the housing agency.
Local solar power plants will also benefit the funding process as dividends are given for each watt of power to the community. This revenue is used for other areas of the town such as roads and maintenance, but it will still partially fund the objection process and building and planning of the park.
The Ashbourne Playspace Network, founded in 2012, are the main advocate group for the park made up of concerned parents aiming to get more residential facilities in Ashbourne. This lack of recreation has been a major issue in Ashbourne for several years as the town has grown with little being built except residential.
“We’re trying to get noticed,” Emlyn Cardiff says. “We want to make sure people know we want to get this park in so that people have somewhere to go.”