Two strategic employment zones for Tullamore

Ger Scully

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Ger Scully

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editor@tullamoretribune.ie

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O'Connor Square, the beating heart of Tullamore

ALL new large scale enterprises, especially those in the technical and medical area, must be located in Tullamore, according to the draft Offaly County Development Plan, now open for public submission.

To cater for new enterprises, two extensive “Strategic Employment Zones” are proposed on the northern side of the town, one around the hospital and the other at IDA lands in Ballyduff.

The plan defines Tullamore's role as a “Key Town” which requires it to act as the economic driver of the county and provide for strategic employment opportunities to improve its economic base.

The plan, unveiled for public comment earlier this month, contains “a radical new vision for Tullamore which will set the town in a direction very different from that of the past 30 years”, the town planner, architect and commentator Fergal MacCabe has stated.

Mr MacCabe, a native of Tullamore, writing in this week's Tribune, describes the plan as very coherent” and says it “taps into a clear cut policy stream and funding programme.”

“It is based on a sound survey and analysis of Offaly's strength and weakness, opportunities and threats,” he finds.

Mr MacCabe says its “objectives are realistic and achievable within its timeframe.”

He says that the new plan takes a conservative but realistic estimate of population growth in the town with an extra 4,853 persons expected by 2027.

But he warns that its housing strategy would be undermined by an application recently lodged for development in the Clonminch area.

The plan also addresses the pressing question of the employment crisis resulting from the move away from turf as an energy source.

It plans to create alternative employment by supporting and promoting the Ferbane Food Campus, expanding the Rhode Green Energy Hub and exploiting the potential offered in Birr by the technology associated with Irish Low Frequency Array which is tied into the European network of observatories.

It also envisions Offaly as an ideal location of back office facilities for high tech firms in the Dublin Metropolitan area

The plan also commits to the completion of the Tullamore/Kilbeggan link road and the improvement of rail service on the Portarlington/Athlone line.

Adds Mr MacCabe: “All of these projects flow from or align with the objectives of Project 2040 and therefore can expect funding via the National Development Plan- quite unlike the bizarre proposal of the Draft Plan to support the development of an international airport in Offaly. This crazy idea is unmentioned in any national or regional policy and therefore any investment will have to come directly and solely from the budget of the council.”

See full story in this week's Tullamore Tribune and Midland Tribune