With only four days to go before the closing date for public suggestions on the future development of Athlone, it has been revealed that just five submissions have been received by the town council to date.
Despite this being less than one sixth of the number submitted for the last plan in 2008 (31 ), a senior member of staff at the Civic Centre is not yet fazed by this small return.
“Judging by previous [submissions] the bulk of them usually come in in the last week,” they said, before adding that a large number of such suggestions could have been sent into the forward planning office at the county council buildings in Mullingar.
Cllr Aengus O’Rourke echoed this sentiment.
“Five would be very low, and I’d be disappointed if that was it, but with the week that’s in it, with people away with their kids, there’ll probably be a lot more in the next few days. It’ll probably be a bit like the national household charge, with a late run,” he offered.
Cllr Jim Henson felt similarly, but added a warning for the unengaged.
“I wouldn’t be too worried about the apparent low numbers. A lot of people submit late,” he said, before adding a warning to those who like to criticise from the outside.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but a lot of people will give out about it [the plan] after Tuesday without having made any submissions,” said the Labour councillor.
“It can be very frustrating to have to listen to people giving out afterwards, if they didn’t take the time to make the [formal] effort. Eight weeks is a long time,” he added.
In line with the national spatial strategy, the town council is preparing its third town development plan for the sustainable expansion of Athlone between the years of 2014 and 2020.
In sectors such as tourism, education, transportation, the environment, enterprise and employment, culture and the arts, this plan will address all of these issues as best it can as part of an overall core strategy, with each subsequent draft an improvement on the previous.
The first of these was produced for 2002 in line with legislation, with the second one launched in 2008.
In February the process to develop the latest version was begun with an eight-week period of public consultation, and this expires on Tuesday (April 17 ).
“We hope the new plan will accurately reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people who live in the town,” said the mayor of Athlone, Cllr Alan Shaw.
“These issue papers present some of the issues which the council considers important to the plan. They are intended to stimulate debate but do not purport to cover all the issues. The council wants members of the public to tell them what issues most concern them,” he added.
The 2008-2014 plan can be viewed under the Planning heading on the town council website, www.athlonetowncouncil.ie
Submissions can be made online at www.athlone.ie/udc/atp, by email to [email protected], or by post to the Town Clerk, Athlone Town Council, Civic Centre, Church Street, Athlone, and the closing date for submissions is April 17.