The management of land-use and infrastructure provision in Ireland is implemented through the statutory Planning and Development system which incorporates Regional Planning Guidelines and City, County and Local Development Plans.

In order to facilitate and inform the implementation of the statutory processes, the constituent Planning Authorities of the Mid-West Region (Clare County Council, Limerick City and County Councils and North Tipperary County Council) and the Mid-West Regional Authority have developed a non-statutory, 20-year, integrated land-use and transport strategy for the region. This will provide an evidence base which can inform transport and planning policy and infrastructure investment decisions in the Region to 2030.

The overall aim of the “Mid-West Area Strategic Plan” (MWASP) incorporating the “Planning, Land Use and Transportation Strategy” is to provide a framework to help guide decision making with regard to the physical and spatial development of the Region to 2030, and to promote balanced growth throughout the region to achieve the maximum social, economic, health and cultural benefits for all its citizens.

MWASP has been prepared using published socio-economic data and the information and insight gathered during the roadside surveys and public consultation which formed part of the process of preparing the Plan.

The fundamentals of the strategy are aligned to the National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020, are closely linked to the Mid-West Regional Planning Guidelines 2010-2022 and reflect national “Smarter Travel” objectives.

Major and rapid social and economic changes are being experienced both globally and nationally. Ireland prospered from an export boom in the 1990s and early 2000s and experienced a period of rapid economic growth from 1995-2007. Strong growth in the domestic economy was driven by spending on housing (construction) and consumption (retail) which, combined, led to unsustainable drivers of growth.

There has, of course, been a dramatic reversal of fortunes since 2007 with a GDP contraction of 14% and national unemployment levels at 14.8% by 2012. Unemployment in the Mid West region is slightly greater than the national average at 16%.

The 2011 Census figures confirm the on-going population growth of the Mid-West Region, which indicates strong growth in the key regional economic nodes of Ennis, Newcastle West and Nenagh, while recording a second concurrent decline of the population of Limerick City.

The land use and transport recommendations contained in the Plan are based on population growth for the region which emanate from the published regional population targets provided by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government up until 2022. From 2022 until 2030, a lesser growth has been assumed to bring the regional population to 500,000.

The National Recovery Plan (2011 – 2014) provides a blue print for a return to sustainable growth in the Irish economy. In particular it:

  • sets out the measures that will be taken to restore order to the public finances.
  • identifies the areas of economic activity which will provide growth and employment for the future recovery of the region.
  • specifies the reforms the Government will need to implement to accelerate growth in those key sectors identified in the plan.

MWASP is designed to cater for a regional population of approximately 500,000 in twenty years’ time. Should this population target not be achieved within this timeframe, the delivery of the strategy will take place over a longer period of time until the target population is reached, though the MWASP principles and objectives will remain unchanged.

The MWASP sets out a series of economic, land-use and transport recommendations including a proposed transportation investment programme, a public transport feasibility report, spatial and economic strategies and recommendations to achieve balanced regional development and an enhanced quality of life for the citizens of the Mid West region.

The Strategy proposes that in order for the region to develop its economic strength, it needs to generate export-led growth in goods and services, promote innovation through research and development and secure long-term sustainability and growth through the following:

  • A commitment to education, research and development;
  • Delivering on its track record for overseas FDI investment;
  • Promoting international competitiveness that is beginning to improve (decrease in salaries and rents, increase in availability of skilled labour); and
  • Retaining the corporate tax regime that is a crucial driver for Foreign Direct Investment.

The development of the Strategy has been informed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process. The parallel SEA process has been undertaken to ensure that the proposed MWASP strategies that are implemented will not have a significant negative effect on the receiving environment over the lifetime of the Plan.

This strategy has been informed by the adopted future vision for the Region which is stated as follows:

"The Mid-West Region and Limerick City as its capital, will realise its potential as a Gateway region both nationally and internationally. The future of the region will be based on sustainable economic, social equity and environmental drivers, which together will deliver an enhanced quality of life”.

  • Prioritise investment in the region, through a fusion of land use and transportation policies within the context of a defined settlement hierarchy as provided in the Regional Planning Guidelines;
  • Strengthen the role of Limerick City and its Environs (Metropolitan city) as the core economic driver for the Region;
  • Strengthen the Limerick/Shannon Gateway and Ennis (Hub Town) in terms of population growth, and as complementary centres for both employment and population growth, with a better balance between the two;
  • Promote balanced regional development throughout the region through the development of well-defined hierarchies of settlements that envisages stronger roles for Nenagh, Newcastle West, Thurles, and to a lesser extent Roscrea, which will support the development of a series of rural economic nodes, and their immediate hinterland;
  • Deliver the required national road (Atlantic Corridor) infrastructure to connect the region with Waterford, Galway and Cork;
  • Revise the public transport system through future investment to achieve a more sustainable, accessible, competitive and socially inclusive region;
  • Identify and promote investment in key infrastructural projects identified to serve the needs of the region including new roads and improvements to the National Secondary and Regional road network, rail, air, port, infrastructure and water services. Such proposals to include an equitable distribution of resources throughout the region;
  • Clarify the identity and future role of Shannon Airport in the context of the development of a national aviation policy;
  • Support opportunities that the Shannon Estuary Integrated Framework Plan can sustainably deliver, through optimising the deep water berthage opportunities and the infrastructural, commercial and recreational resources which prevail in the estuary and its surrounds;
  • Change the way Limerick is portrayed and viewed, to promote the prioritisation of support for the region by development agencies and to improve the cost competitiveness of the region;
  • Acknowledge that the Mid West region has a strong rural population of c. 54% of the region, with a strong agricultural sector. The Region requires the development of a strong urban core with rural development nodes, good access to markets and amenities ,which in turn will facilitate the growth of the rural hinterland, and lead to a positive impact on rural development and, settlement, with economic and job creation opportunities;
  • Assist in the streamlining of the regional corporate governance structure to provide a better platform for the Limerick Metropolitan Area to achieve its potential (underway);
  • Provide education, re-training, up-skilling and research opportunities.

The revitalisation of Limerick City and its Environs;

  • Measures to deliver population growth, infrastructure, and job creation in specific areas targeted in the Regional Planning Guidelines;
  • Balanced regional development to promote sustainable urban and rural development
  • Development of enterprise and employment; and
  • The identification and remediation of infrastructural deficits.