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Dawson’s lane: “Its not safe – a blind man could see it”

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Fergus O'Dowd and Dolores Minogue meet residents on Old Dawson's Demesne. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.
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This article originally appeared on ThisIsArdee.ie

Residents of Old Dawson’s Demesne in Ardee are fighting to stop a walkway provide pedestrian access from the new Castle Guard development to their estate, with locals fearing increased activity on the lane will be a danger to motorists and pedestrians alike.

The lane that links Old Dawson’s Demesne to Campbell’s Park and new Dawson’s is so narrow in parts that only one car can pass at any one time. There are no foothpaths on the lane nor is there street lighting. Presently, plans are afoot to open up the end of the lane to allow access to and from the new Castle Guard housing development.

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A 107-home project, the access point will allow pedestrian’s from the new estate to and from the town centre – but locals on Old Dawson’s say encouraging increased pedestrian capacity on the lane will put residents and those walking on the lane at risk.

Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie this week, resident Jenny Burke said that the laneway in Old Dawson’s is already in sub-standard condition. She also says residents project the pedestrian usage on the lane will increase by 300% if the current plans go ahead.

The entrance to Old Dawson’s Demesne in Ardee.

“At the moment, there are 31 houses on the lane but there are going to be over 100 houses on the development. We reckon that the rate of pedestrians going through is going to increase by 300% – and that’s going by one parent and one child per household using the lane,” the concerned resident said.

“We have no footpaths in Old Dawsons – on either side. There are many parts of the lane that are narrow and will only allow one car to pass at a time. The lane is sub-standard because it’s not a roadway. Any engineer we have spoken to has agreed with us that it is sub-standard. It’s a safety aspect for both drivers and pedestrians.”

Burke feels that the issues that already exist are bearable at the moment because residents are already aware of the issues. Old Dawson’s is also a cul-de-sac, meaning the further down the lane you go, the less chance you have of encountering a fellow motorist or pedestrian.

“There are actually blindspots on the lane. There are 12 residential houses on the lane that have blindspots as they pull out of their drive. There was no risk assessment done by Louth County Council.

“There’s not even one footpath. You can’t say we can put in a four foot footpath. At the moment, the laneway is narrow. It has been inexistence for 105 years,” Burke added.

Already, Fergus O’Dowd TD has visited the site to speak to locals alongside Ardee Municipal cathaoirleach Dolores Minogue. On Wednesday, Sinn Fein councillors Pearse McGeough and Tom Cunningham paid a visit to Old Dawson’s while on Friday, Fianna Fail TD Declan Breatnach will also come to speak to residents.

Those living on the laneway are keen to get their message across by bringing their cause to those who can get answers at council level.

The planned development is a long time coming. Conditional planning permission was granted to the Castle Guard estate back in June 2006. At the time, 19 submissions were made to the plans including fears over access but plans submitted showed gardens backing onto the back of Old Dawson’s – allaying concerns among locals.

But now, plans are pressing ahead with an access lane – leaving residents playing catch up in their bid to stop it.

Residents speak to Fergus O’Dowd TD on his visit to Ardee last week.

“The first time we saw this new map was a few weeks ago when a few of the residents on the boundary of the development met with the developer to discuss it,” Burke told ThisIsArdee.ie.

“The developer said he can’t put a wall there because it’s a condition of planning. He needed access. But he did say that if we get a letter from Louth CoCo stating to close off the access, he’d close it off.”

However, despite putting their request in writing, the local authority have told the residents they are unable to provide them with such a letter as the developer can not overturn an An Bord Pleanala ruling. “It was there in a roundabout way but it wasn’t blatantly obvious to anyone,” Burke says of the ABP decision on the access lane.

“The laneway wasn’t one of the conditions but they did say they were in agreement with Louth County Council about access to the lane but it wasn’t made a condition. We have no problem with the development. They could build 300 houses. It’s nothing to do with social housing. It could be social housing or it could be millionaire’s row – but people’s lives will be put in jeopardy.

“There are walls along our gardens that are 5ft or 6ft tall in some places. If a child runs along there, we won’t see their head. We are going to be driving out of our houses and worried that a child will dart. Parents can’t seven say to their child, ‘stay on the footpath’.

“We the residents have said that we will get a risk assessment or audit on the lane. That’s not saying that will get us anywhere but somebody said that it’s going to be fine and safe. It clearly isn’t. It couldn’t have been an engineer who made this decision. A blind man could see it.”

At Deputy O’Dowd’s visit last Friday, locals brought him to the Railway Line walk – an area they believe provides an adequate alternative for those living in Castle Guard to get to the town centre. Developed over the last 11 years since the project was first on the table, a footpath links the main entrance of Castle Guard to the Railway Line.

“There’s lights on it, there’s gravel, it’s safe – from Castleguard to that railway line, there’s a footpath. You could come out Tierney Street or Sean O’Carroll Street.

“Then there is safe access to the schools. We timed it the other day, from the access to the lane to the Convent school – there’s three minutes of a difference between that and coming out of Castleguard on a safe footpath and coming along Hale Street. Three minutes could save somebody not knocking a child down. Or a child being hurt. It’s children that are going to be affected.

“If we don’t stand up now – god forbid, a child is knocked down, and then what?”

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