Battery Heights regeneration project scaled back

Athlone Town Council is to meet with the Battery Heights Action Group within the next few weeks to discuss a scaled down version of the long-awaited regeneration plan for the area and Phase One plans favoured by the Department of the Environment. 'In response to Department of the Environment comments on the Vision Plan and the plans for Phase 1, the proposals for the area have been revised somewhat scaled back,' said Barry Kehoe Athlone Area Director of Services, speaking at the Athlone Town Council meeting on Monday night, where he gave councillors a progress report which was compiled following a request from Cllr Kieran Molloy (FF). 'The plan of 2006/2007 was a plan of its time,' said Mr Kehoe. 'It was a good plan, but we didn"t get the Department"s support. We"ve spent 18 months getting approval. The plan has been changed rather than thrown away. What we"re doing is good for the residents, the environment and we"re expanding facilities.' Mr Kehoe added that he had no idea how much funding the Council would receive from the Department, but the Council would be looking for half a million euro or €300,000 in the first year. The main changes to the plan are that a new school building and a substantial amount of housing will not be built due to the current lack of funding and demand. If the plan goes ahead as it is, the enhancement of laneways, landscaping, a pedestrian bridge and a new road into the community centre will all be provided within Phase One. 'The new school, we don"t feel is feasible or in a suitable location,' Mr Kehoe told the councillors. 'We"ve decided to keep the Dean Kelly school where it is and possibly expand it.' A new pedestrian bridge will also be built to facilitate access to the Roscommon Road. 'We need to break down the barrier that is the railway track to the Roscommon Road,' he said. Plans for housing along the canal are also being shelved. 'We"ve reconsidered as it"s difficult to fit in houses to meet the needs of residents. At this stage we"re not proposing new housing along by the canal.' However, the plans remain to build new and affordable housing in zones two and nine, which would complement existing residential units, provide an attractive approach into the neighbourhood and optimise the use of the existing unsightly vacant plot, Mr Kehoe said. He added that in the current climate however, construction of these houses would be a longterm objective. The front entrance will be upgraded and a new road leading to the Dean Kelly and the community centre is proposed. 'This will provide very pleasant access to the community centre and more privacy for residents,' said Mr Kehoe. Landscaping will also be carried out within the area, to give it a 'softer feel than it currently has'. Cllr Molloy thanked Mr Kehoe for the report and said the landscaping plans would be an enormous help to the area. 'I know you"ve had a meeting with the Department and I think that whatever money is available now, we should avail of it,' he added. 'I"m delighted it"s progressing. This is a start, I"d like to think the glass is half full.' He asked the Council to arrange a meeting with the committee to discuss the proposals, which was agreed to. Cllr Ray Lennon (Lab) called it a 'very watered-down project' but said he understood we were in different times now. 'Any start is better than none,' he said. 'I"m disappointed with the school, no new schools have been built on the westside. I can"t see what we"re going to do with the school, it"s a very small site.' Barry Kehoe said that there was 'some scope' to expand on the site. Cllr Paul Hogan (SF) also expressed his disappointment. 'What kind of funding are we likely to get for Phase One?' he asked. Cllr John Butler said the environmental improvements in the area were 'very welcome'. But he said the problem of serious littering along the railway track needed to be addressed. Mr Kehoe said the regeneration plan was a 'work in progress' and when it was finalised it would be brought before the Council again for approval. He said further consultation would be carried out with council members and the residents of Battery Heights.