On 7th March 2014 the directors of the management companies in the Waterways estate in Sallins wrote to me asking me what I would do for them should I succeed in winning a seat to Kildare County Council in May. They sent the same letter to all candidates. Here is a copy of their letter and below is my response. I have a long involvement with the Waterways and will certainly continue that if I am elected in May.
Thank you for your note regarding the Waterways and the upcoming elections. As you know I am a Sallins based candidate and I have a long history of involvement with the Waterways development. What I have done to date has been as a private citizen and local community activist and I would hope if I am elected to the Council in May, then I will be in a position to be of even greater influence and assistance to yourselves and the issues you face in the development.
Please see below a brief history of my involvement as well as some thoughts on the future direction of the Waterways.
Waterways Involvement – James Lawless
Underground Car Park
I have a long-standing interest in the underground car park, both as a potential amenity to the village and in my role as spokesperson for the Naas & Sallins Rail Users Group (NASRUG). I had a number of engagements with Irish Rail and the developer when the car park was first proposed, including a meeting on site in 2007 with Tony Cassidy and Myles McHugh of Irish Rail. I also met with Pearse Gately (developer of Waterways) and Fergus Reilly around the same time. My objective at all times was to try ensure the car park was built to a suitable standard and that it was synchronised in terms of price, access and security with existing parking facilities provided by Irish Rail. I had hoped at the early stages that Irish Rail may take on the maintenance and long term lease of the car park and ensure it was managed as part of the wider station.
Flooding of Development
As you will be aware I was heavily involved with relief efforts when the development was flooded in late 2009 and I organised a number of fundraising events and also organised a group of tradesmen to attend the site and help repair homes. I organised meetings with the local community, both at the time and in the aftermath, to channel relief towards the development, some of which meetings later emerged into the formation of the Waterways Residents Association c. late 2009 / early 2010.
Through 2010 & 2011 I lobbied Kildare County Council, both directly, and through the office of my then colleague, the late Michael Fitzpatrick TD, to ensure council monies were directed towards addressing the culvert and drainage issues to the rear of development to prevent any repeat of the flooding incidents. Some of this activity is recorded in Oireachtas transcripts from the time. I also worked with local PR outlets and local media, including several appearances on KFM, to try restore the reputation of development as a place to live, shop and setup a business.
I am aware of the multiple planning issues in terms of the three different management companies, the application for change of use on the hotel block, and various difficulties in transferring title of properties within the development. I was highly critical of the decision to refuse planning to the hotel/nursing home last year. As a lawyer I am familiar with planning legislation and as a politician I have worked on several developments being taken in charge. It is not impossible for the Waterways to be taken in charge (there is a precedent with an apartment complex in Kilcock) however it is by no means straightforward. The shared spaces, the mixed use, the management companies (x3), outstanding development works (e.g. the water pump out and drainage issues) all complicate the picture and make it less likely the Council will be amenable to taking in charge in the short term. However I do not believe Taking in Charge should be viewed as a panacea ; it is a desirable development but by no means the only or even the most efficient way to tackle the issues. If the receiver fulfilled the conditions of planning, and a more flexible approach employed by the planning authorities, I think it could enable the restoration of fortunes of the development. The key goal as I see it is to attract more retail and commercial outlets into the vacant lots. This needs to be coupled with the outstanding drainage works being completed. I have met personally with the Waterways management companies and / or residents groups on many occasions over the past five years, I also brought my colleague Sean O’Fearghaill TD to a meeting onsite in early 2013. Deputy O’Fearghail then organised a follow up meeting with Kildare County Council to discuss the outstanding issues.
Most recently I attended a meeting organised by Marion Costello to discuss issues as a residents group. I offered to work with any such group that is setup, as I have done with all groups in the Waterways since the beginning of the development.
As a separate but related activity, I recently founded, and am current chairperson of, the Sallins Business Association. I have stated that one of the goals of this organisation should be to participate and lobby in local planning matters, specifically including the Waterways situation, and a number of businesses within the complex are active within the association.
Finally much of my activity and statements on the Waterways are on public record on my own website at this link: https://jameslawless.ie/topic/the-waterways/
I remain, of course, available to meet with residents as a group or individually at any time.
Thanks for your email and I hope to get the chance to work with you as an elected Councillor after this May.