The highest-ever number of submissions to a draft city and county development plan for Kilkenny is an indication of the level of interest people have in their county and their wish to have a say in the future of their locality.
Credit is due to the council for its public engagement efforts to elicit feedback on the draft plans during the difficulties posed by the pandemic. There is little doubt also that the increasingly online nature of how we process and can now submit information has opened up possibilities for people who have never previously engaged in statutory public consultation processes.
In addition to striking an annual local authority budget, the formation of a county development plan is the most important role of local councillors. They must be informed by the planning experts and national policy — but also by their constituents who live in the area.
It is telling that a large number of the submissions to this draft were in relation to proposed windfarms and wind-energy strategy. It is clear that both windfarms and large-scale Strategic Housing Developments have been two areas of contention in planning matters for local communities in recent times.
In both cases, the ultimate decision is generally out of the council’s hands. It falls to An Bord Pleanala — and that body does not always agree with local decisions.
Nonetheless, the Bord must consider the views of the council and its development plan, so it remains incumbent on all concerned to continue to give input and engage with the process. Another important part of that is now about to begin, with plans to go back on public display.
Good luck, mayor
Wishing the best of luck to the newly-elected Mayor of Kilkenny in what will be a critically important year in terms of reopening the city and reviving our tourism economy.
Congratulations also to outgoing mayor, Cllr John Coonan, on his successful year despite very challenging times.
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