A new city in the Midlands will create a distinct region where boundaries are blurred, borders are crossed, and collaboration is fundamental to its success.
That is the message inherent in Destination Athlone’s submission to the National Planning Framework 2020-2040, which aims to secure regional city status for the locality.
The submission was commissioned by Destination Athlone, but is a collaborative effort by local businesses, Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, Athlone Institute of Technology, and Longford and Westmeath councils. Roscommon County Council made a separate submission. The aim is that Athlone will serve as a key enabler for the region, benefiting the wider Midlands.
The submission focuses on Athlone as an attractive place to live, with a burgeoning population, strong infrastructure, an efficient transport network, an educated and motivated workforce, a host of manufacturing and services industries in situ, and the potential for increased investment and the creation of employment.
President of Athlone Chamber of Commerce, John McGrath, has stressed the importance to the entire region in Athlone achieving city status.
“It is hugely important that a concentrated level of investment into the Midlands for the period up to 2040 is achieved to enable the efficient workings of the region as a whole. It also solves the issue of cities uncontrollably expanding,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity for the Midlands region to develop an urban centre (city ) which will incorporate the needs of the region while at the same time avoiding the unplanned expansionary effects of unplanned cities.
“We can put the necessary development plans and investment programme in place now which will see an ordered growth over the next five, 20, 50 years, hence avoiding the issues encountered by existing cities, such as inadequate arterial routes, public transport, and the need to put national infrastructure through existing developed areas such as housing and community spaces such as race courses.
“We here in Ireland can plan an urban centre for the future which will be centred in this amazing country of ours and it’s not a case of reinventing the wheel. Orderly planned cities are important for the successful economic growth of a region and most importantly, if not critically, the wellbeing of its citizens. Athlone Chamber are excited about this opportunity and believe it is one that cannot and should not be missed.”
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