National Plan gets mixed reactions in Limerick

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Patrick O'Donovan
Limerick Fine Gael TD and Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan

CRITICS of the National Development Strategy should outline what Limerick projects they would scrap in a bid to better the €116 billion portfolio of work.

That’s according to Minister of State at the Department of Finance Patrick O’Donovan, who said that he has heard a lot of “talk” from political parties and critics of the 2040 National Development Plan.

Capital investments around the country have been outlined in the plan including a new maternity hospital for Limerick and several infrastructural road projects, The entire plan will see €116 billion spent on projects over the next 20 years.

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Details were unveiled alongside the National Planning Framework which sets out Government’s vision for the country for the same period.

“Are you going to take out the Adare bypass; are you going to take out the maternity hospital; are you going to take out the Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale bypasses or are you going to take out the M20?” Minister O’Donovan said.

The Minister said that there can’t be any more money allocated because Government has to borrow under fiscal rules.

Meantime, Limerick Labour TD and Party Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Jan O’Sullivan called for a united approach to fight for the resources needed to grow the city to its potential.

“While I welcome the inclusion of the M20 and the re-location of the maternity hospital, we have to fight for a lot more than those two projects. It is not either/or when it comes to investment in the M20 or the infrastructure the city needs. The most the M20 is projected to cost is €900 million while the rail link in North Dublin is going to cost €3 billion. Where is the balance in that?

Deputy O’Sullivan suggested that the validity of the M20 project was jeopardised when Edgar Morgenroth “threw a spanner in the works last week when he implied that we couldn’t have the road to Cork and investment in the city. That needs to be challenged strongly. Limerick has the industrial and educational base required to be a real growth centre.

Locating the new National Regeneration and Development Agency in Limerick as part of the policy plan to locate new State agencies outside of Dublin needs to be addressed, Deputy O’Sullivan said adding that she would be raising this in the Dáil.

Shannon Airport “is completely neglected” in the plan, said Deputy O’Sullivan. “Other airports in the West, with far less strategic importance, are to get funding, not to mention an extra runway for in Dublin.

“Why can’t Shannon, with its spare capacity, be that extra runway? That would really provide radical thinking and real rebalancing”.

Concluding a strongly worded retort to the national plan, Deputy O’Sullivan said that the proposals do not adequately address the regional imbalance between the greater Dublin area and the rest of the country.

“There is real potential to develop Limerick and the Mid West as a strong and sustainable growth centre and the plan is hugely disappointing in the level of its ambition for or region and our city.”

However, the local authority is of the viewpoint that Limerick’s ambitious plans for its rejuvenation and development have been copper fastened in the Government’s 20 year outlook.

Conn Murray, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council said: “Limerick City and County Council welcomes the commitment by the government to fund our ambitious plans to develop and enhance the city and county. While a strong city is crucial to the development of the region, we recognise and welcome the plans to revitalise rural towns and villages.

Overall the National Planning Framework (NPF) projects that the population of Limerick city and its environs will grow by between 50 and 55,000 people by 2040 to a total population of 150,000.

Maria Woods, Senior Planner with Limerick City and County Council said: “One of the aims of the NPF is to address regional imbalance between the greater Dublin area and the rest of the country, however, we are concerned that the plan outlined by the government means that the status quo will remain in terms of population distribution across the country.”

Echoing the sentiment, Ibec Mid-West and Kerry Regional Director Mairead Crosby stated that “Investment in the public transport network, extending the ambition of the Limerick 2030 plan to include extension of the city centre towards Limerick Docks; the reinstatement of the Limerick-Foynes rail line as part of the overall expansion of Shannon Foynes Port, investment in the region’s higher education institutions, continued investment in the Limerick regeneration programme and a metropolitan area strategic plan for the Limerick-Shannon area, will increase existing capacity and accelerate regional growth.

Speaking on the plans included for the University Hospitals Group, Prof Colette Cowan, CEO said that the announcement was a “signal day” for the hospitals group

“Project Ireland 2040 represents a commitment to the two most significant outstanding capital projects we have presented to government in recent years, the 96-bed ward block at UHL and the relocation of University Maternity Hospital Limerick to the UHL site.

Citing “demographic pressures alone”, Professor Cowan said there is a “plain requirement for more inpatient accommodation”, as she welcomed the relocation of the maternity hospital.