Fitzmaurice: Don’t let rural areas become wastelands

A cross-party meeting will be held in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, on February 5, to discuss the Government’s draft National Planning Framework publication, “Ireland 2040: Our Plan”.

The meeting will be hosted by Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice (Ind ), with guest speakers Eamon O’Cuív TD (FF ), and Alan Kelly TD (Lab ), and will provide those that attend with an in-depth analysis of what is been proposed and also the opportunity to provide feedback.

“This plan when finalised will become the basis for the future development of Ireland both urban and rural for the next two decades,” said Fitzmaurice. “Currently there are major aspects of this draft plan which if included in the final plan will impact negatively in western areas and throughout many parts of Rural Ireland.”

“Ireland 2040: Our Plan” was published by the government in September, and has since been criticised for focusing 75 per cent of projected growth on Dublin and the four other major cities, at the expense of regions like the Midlands.

In November, Destination Athlone and Senator Gabrielle McFadden (FG ) urged the Government to heed calls to develop Athlone into a regional city. The senator argued that the development of Athlone into a city by 2040 would provide a counterbalance to the dominance of Dublin, drive regional development, and ease the daily gridlock as commuters journey into the capital from further and further afield.

Now, Fitzmaurice too is slating the government’s myopic focus on the already develped cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford.

“Unfortunately it would appear the Ireland 2040 Plan will only serve to further undermine our regions and clearly illustrates that the needs of rural Ireland can only be fully understood by those who live and work there,” he said.

“All of this risks the possibility of many rural areas becoming economic wastelands or maybe theme parks for eco-tourists,” he added. “As the new draft plan will be put before the Daíl there is an obligation that they listen to the people. Deputies Kelly, O Cuív and I will outline our concerns and it will then be time for those interested in the future of rural Ireland to speak up.”

The meeting takes place on Monday, February 5 at 8pm in Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone.

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