Businesses across the Midland have voiced their concerns over the lack of ambition for the region in the recently published draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) produced for both the Eastern & Midland and Northern & Western Regions.
Ibec Midland Regional President Ciaran Corcoran said: “The draft RSES produced by the Eastern & Midland and the Northern & Western Regional Assemblies do not provide a coherent and long-term vision for the Midland region. The draft RSES do not reflect national plans and commitments to deliver balanced regional development in line with National Government Policy. The strategies in their current draft format lack a clear plan to grow Athlone as the regional growth centre and thereby the wider Midland region. Business is concerned by the side-lining of the Midland region in the draft strategies.
“The role of Athlone as regional growth centre is not supported in the draft Eastern and Midland RSES. This is inconsistent with the National Planning Framework (NPF) as the NPF recognises the key role of Athlone as the regional growth centre in the Midland. Athlone is designated a regional growth centre in the NPF. However, the draft regional strategies do not follow through on these national objectives.
“Without a strong regional growth centre of scale, the entire Midland region will lose out. The lack of ambition for the region will result in a two-speed development occurring between the eastern half of the region and the Midlands.
“The Ibec Midland Regional Executive Committee, which I lead, is calling for a coherent and long-term vision for the Midland region with a clear plan for Athlone as regional growth centre with ambitious growth targets. This is necessary to enable Athlone and the Midland region to achieve the growth and transformation envisioned in Project Ireland 2040. The region must exploit the central geographical location of the Midlands as a transport and distribution hub for the country with regional and national benefits. The Ibec Midland Regional Executive Committee met with local political representatives today to voice our concerns. The RSES must provide a coherent and long-term vision for the Midland region, with the active involvement of all five local authorities. This is vital for the future economic growth of the region.”