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:
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:
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”.
The revitalisation of Limerick City and its Environs;