Government plan will threaten future investment in Limerick region

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Conn Murray, Paschal Donohoe and Stephen Keary
Limerick Council chief executive Conn Murray (left) with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Mayor Stephen Keary.

THE Government’s vision for Ireland 2040, as set out in the draft National Planning Framework (NPF), will perpetuate the existing economic imbalance across the island and threaten future investment, the lead authors of a joint submission from the Limerick City Region have stated.

Limerick City and County Council, which made a joint submission with Clare County Council, Tipperary County Council, Shannon Group, University of Limerick, Limerick Institute of Technology and Shannon Foynes Port Company and the Mid-West Action Plan for Jobs, has stated that while the publication of the draft NPF is welcome and there are some positives within, its implementation would lead to disproportionate economic growth across the country.

This will result in a further deterioration of quality of life in Dublin and its commuter belt and exorbitant infrastructure requirements for the capital, while the city-regions will continue to be under-utilised assets.

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Conversely, a draft submitted by the Mid-West Limerick City Region argues that proper spatial planning and more cost-effective investment in the regions will grow regional economies exponentially, strengthening the global competitiveness of the country by complementing the growth of the capital city.  This will enable city regions alleviate much of the pressure currently on the capital and, in turn, assist in transforming Dublin from a capital city with constrained infrastructural deficits into one of Europe’s and the world’s best places to live.

Under the draft framework, the NPF proposes that the second, third, fourth and fifth cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford) will have just under one-quarter of Ireland’s overall population growth by 2040, while the Dublin and  it’s commuter belt – the ‘Mid-Eastern Region’ – will have almost 50% of the growth.

The joint submission argues if Limerick and the other regional capitals do not get a significant share of population growth, the NPF will have merely exacerbated economic imbalance on the island, rather than eased it.  It further argues that the Mid-West/Limerick City region will be in danger of losing out on significant investment opportunities while Dublin continues to overheat and play catch-up with growing infrastructural deficits.

The submission is calling for an increase in projected population growth, the continued development of Shannon Airport and key infrastructure projects in the Mid-West to be included in the Ireland 2040 framework to ensure more balanced regional development.

Limerick City and County Council chief executive Conn Murray said:  “If we are to correct economic imbalances across the island, regional cities must grow more than Dublin does and under the draft NPF, Dublin on its own, outside entirely from its commuter belt, is to have a population growth of quarter of a million, which is more than the cities of Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway put together. From our perspective, the development of a Mid-West Limerick city region with a critical mass that has national and international scale is imperative if the NPF is to deliver for the nation.  The same applies to the other cities.

“The NPF references Limerick as a regional centre; our aspirations are far greater than that and if we don’t have that ambition, we are not going to deliver for the region and the nation.  The Limerick City Region has enormous competitive advantages, including its central location on the Atlantic corridor, its national and international trade and tourism connectivity through  Shannon Airport and Shannon Foynes Port Company and a third level complement via UL and LIT  that ensures constant supply of graduates.  The NPF fails to take advantage of this mix.”

The response to the NPF draft recommends that the following key future growth enablers need to be delivered:

INFRASTRUCTURE:

  • High quality motorway network between regional cities
  • Delivery of a key piece of essential infrastructure – the Northern Distributor Road – for facilitating future economic development of Limerick. This distributor road will benefit regional city interconnectivity; provide improved access from the region to the University of Limerick, the IDA National Technology Park, Shannon International Airport and the businesses and industries in the Shannon area. This will significantly enhance the attractiveness of the region from a research, innovation and development perspective

 SHANNON AIRPORT

  • Facilitating the growth of Shannon Airport, recognising its strategic importance to the National Economy in attracting FDI and Tourism.
  • Ensure economic investment zones around the airport are serviced with adequate utilities and a transport network to attract additional investment which will bring economic benefits to regions and country as a whole
  • Strengthening transport connectivity to Shannon Airport including public transport from the wider region and upgrading the N19 to Dual Carriageway.

SHANNON FOYNES PORT COMPANY

  • Enhance the wider role of the Shannon Estuary building on the growth of Shannon Foynes Port Company – Ireland’s largest bulk port company – should be included as a National Strategic Outcome under the section “High Quality International Connectivity”.

RAIL

  • Faster rail link between Limerick and Dublin/Cork line  to allow faster commute times

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