New local government structure announced for Athlone

Minister Denis Naughten has declared the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign a success, as a new law will protect County Roscommon’s border from encroachment by a developing Athlone.

Under the law, a new legally established joint structure, composed of equal membership from both Roscommon and Westmeath County Councils, will deal with the development and other interests of both sides of the town of Athlone.

This means that Athlone can develop as outlined in the National Planning Framework, without the need to shift the Roscommon border westward to bring areas like Monksland into County Westmeath.

The joint structure, Minister Naughten explained, will have designated responsibility for development and planning including responsibility for certain key strategic matters beyond the existing standard functions of Councils, especially in relation to spatial and economic planning and development.

“These structures will also have responsibility for transportation strategy, forward planning and land use designation, and retail strategy as well as any other such matters as both Roscommon and Westmeath Councils agree. Such structures will not, however, have responsibility for delivering existing functions of Roscommon County Council except with the express agreement of the council,” he said.

Naughten added that there will be a new clear legal guarantee for the permanent integrity of the identity of County Roscommon, removing the possibility of any disagreement in the future, and that he expects the new legal protection to be included in a Local Government Bill due for publication by the end of May this year.

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