We Need Facilities

Far and above all else the focus in recent weeks has been Johnstown as the 'forgotten town' and our noticeably absent Community Facilities.

This side of the river Boyne River is dominated by residential properties and over 10,000 residents. There are schools, businesses and shops but no playground or community building.

Three generations have now lived here without ever having made use of any community facilities and sadly this may not change for the next generation either.

There were rumors of tennis courts, playgrounds and playing fields and alleged promises from marketing people to those early settlers. Nothing has materialised and nothing is planned.


Community facilities include more than playgrounds for children but we don't even have the simplest form of these.

Why are we waiting?

Planners have allowed developments to continue without an apparent master plan containing facilities for the community. Developers are building new homes right now in Johnstown that will add another 1,000 residents to the Johnstown area.

The Council is in a very difficult position and have used the same reason for many years that there is no available land for sale, no funds for a new building, and no suitable buildings for sale. We are already larger than nearby towns yet without vital facilities.

Ironically Councillors fully agree that facilities are needed and some have worked hard on our behalf to move this forward over the years. Yet they have been unable to produce these for one reason or another.

We know that our younger residents interact more and more online but do they have a choice since Johnstown does not provide facilities for them to meet in person?

What are residents asking for?

Essentially Johnstown is missing some fairly fundamental facilities: playgrounds, outdoor spaces and indoor multipurpose space. There has been much talk in past years and now we want it to become a reality.

Who would use these spaces?

Suggestions have been made for a doctor's surgery, club space, meeting rooms, serviced small offices, play groups, Garda Station and all the many uses that every large community needs.

Large Groups are ready to use the space immediately. Johnstown Football Club could have a changing room to make it a viable proposal to use of the Johnstown Peoples Park as a pitch.  Johnstown ABC Boxing Club who so nearly became homeless would still prefer to have a Johnstown venue.

Hundreds of young people leave our community each week to participate in clubs that we should be hosting here.


What has just happened?

Residents have simply had enough and 17 years is a long time to wait, our population is growing, and we're still waiting. Some active individuals have come forward, are making a stand, and have taken it upon themselves to lead the community to demand these promised facilities. 

We're all no longer interested in political motivations or political parties we simply want a united effort to achieve what we all agree is needed.

The Former Gym

Boarded up since it closed a few years ago the building's size and central location meant it could provide space for several community activities. 

At it's peak the asking price was over half a million euro and in the financial climate it was way beyond the reach for a community without funds.

Sale agreed signs soon brought an end to the discussion until the new owner showed interest in opening it up for shared public use. However the entire deal collapsed.

The Petition

A rare opportunity appear in April when the sale of the old Energy Gym fell through and the building went back to auction.

Alan Lawes, a family man and Johnstown resident for over a decade, seized upon the chance to organise a petition calling for the Council to acquire the building for use by the Community.

https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/buy-the-former-energy-gym-for-the-people-of-johnstown-in-navan?bucket

Over 1,500 local signatures were received within weeks and a motion was put forward by Cllr Sinead Burke at the February Navan Municipal District Council meeting. The minutes were unavailable at the time of publishing this but it's Item 7.4 in the agenda.

The building was unfortunately sold at auction within the days following the Council meeting. The Council did not become the new owners citing the cost, the annual lease and the repair work made it unviable.

We have yet to discover the new owner and what plans they have for the building.


The Protest

Undeterred, a peaceful residents protest was arranged to coincide with the March 11th open day for Cois Glaisin Estate homes. 

Media coverage from LMFM and The Meath Chronicle supported the residents plight with articles, interviews and a video highlighted the issue of 'Johnstown the Forgotten Town'.

Listen to the recent LMFM radio interview with Gerry Kelly from The Late Lunch broadcast on March 6th (41min to 55min mark) where:

"Philip Rooney and Alan Lawes pulled no punches as Johnstown Boxing Club faces losing the premises they rent for club activities."

https://www.lmfm.ie/on-air/shows/late-lunch/late-lunch-podcasts-(1)/late-lunch-monday-march-6th-2017/


The Meath Chronicle created a 'telling' video clip has reached over 20k viewers viewers via their Facebook Posting. 

Meath Chronicle

Video Source: Meath Chronicle Facebook Page Feb 28th.

However, an 11th hour community meeting and public vote saw the protest cancelled after the builder met with representatives and made some proposals regarding community support.

Options

The circular argument that there are no buildings to purchase and no land available on which to build is leading nowhere unless the Council is sufficiently persuaded to act. They have the ability to make compulsory purchases, they can influence planning and zoning, they hold all the cards.

Here are some potential solutions although none are simple or straight forward it only takes one to work:


Locations with existing premises:

  1. The Gym may well still present an opportunity once the new owner is identified.
  2. The Council HQ stands proudly over Athlumney and within sight of the old Gym and yet there is no space offered inside for use by the public.
  3. Many of our children attend Coláiste na Mí Secondary School or St Stephens Primary School and each has buildings lying idle each evening, at weekends and holidays.
  4. The old Spar shop, O'Dwyers (Pit stop) Pub and upstairs, 2 adjacent shops have all laid empty for several months at the Athlumney Centre.
  5. Within Johnstown Shopping Centre there are currently 2 vacant retail outlets.

Locations with land for new buildings:

  1. There are many open green spaces within estates that could be used for very small play areas.
  2. The Johnstown Peoples Park has had plans in place to turn their private land in community facilities but requires supporting buildings and parking.
  3. There is derelict land behind the closed petrol station on the corner of Metges Rd and Kentstown Rd.
  4. There is land opposite the Priory and adjacent to the Bailis Village Apartments which is likely to be sold and seek planning permission in years to come for yet more residential apartments.
  5. The IDA has many empty fields adjacent to both the Council HQ and the Shopping Centre.

There are opportunities and our community has the need but is there sufficient motivation to achieve results within the deciding bodies.

'Thank You'.

On behalf of all Johnstown Residents we'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those individuals, business' and media groups for supporting, reporting, lobbying and driving the push for facilities in our area. 

The struggle is not over yet and we're going to need them to continue to help deliver these facilities.

The Latest News

Just as we launch this magazine there is talk of a significant allocation of €700k potentially being allocated to Johnstown over the next 4 years. The announcement will most likely receive a huge 'Thank You' from our residents although the question is still unanswered as to where this money can be spent since there's no land or building to accommodate us.

Follow the discussion and developments on Facebook:

Navan South Communities Unite


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